June 3, 2023

By Maryam Missal


According to research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Lahore was the most polluted city in the world in 2022 with Peshawar ranking fifth. Per the report, 99% of the world’s population breathes air that is unhealthier than the standards set by the WHO.

Lahore topped the list of the world’s most polluted cities in 2021 as well. In 2020, Lahore alongside five other cities in Punjab was listed among the 50 most polluted cities in the world.

The measurement, sourced from more than 30,000 global air quality monitoring sites, was combined to create the data for the World Air Quality Report by the WHO. The report’s information was compiled over the course of a year, using hourly averaged data from ground-based air quality monitors operated by non-governmental organisations as well as government-controlled regulatory instruments.

According to the WHO, the causes of Lahore’s deteriorating air quality can be attributed to a combination of factors. One of the primary contributors is vehicular emissions – the city’s rapid urbanization and increased motorization have led to a surge in the number of vehicles on the roads, resulting in higher levels of harmful pollutants such as particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), and sulfur dioxide (SO₂).

Industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuels also play a significant role in exacerbating Lahore’s air pollution crisis. The presence of numerous industries, including brick kilns and textile factories, has led to the release of hazardous chemicals and pollutants into the atmosphere. Additionally, the use of low-quality fuel and inadequate pollution control measures further contribute to the problem.

Officials in the Punjab government associate this high air pollution index in Lahore with the burning of crop residue. Climate activists however refute this statement, highlighting the growing number of coal factories in the neighbouring regions of Lahore.

Rafay Alam, lawyer and environmental activist, while talking to Voicepk.net, denied the Government’s stance about corps burning being the reason for pollution in Lahore. Backing his statement, Alam quoted The Urban Unit’s report Emission Inventory of Lahore 2023 which denies the contribution of farmers to air pollution in Pakistan.

Alam further said that the Government of Pakistan is ignoring the real problem, which is the poor management of petroleum products and refineries and industries, by blaming poor farmers who only burn crops for a week or two.

According to Rafay Alam, the only solution for Lahore’s air pollution is expensive yet necessary system improvements and changes. He also dismissed the speculation of India being the reason for pollution in Lahore by backing his statement with publications by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


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