Is it the neighbour again?
While it was India just two days ago that was on the world weathermen’s radar for extreme levels of smog across Punjab, adjoining states and the capital Delhi, it is now Lahore that has made life difficult for its residents. Experts say the winds since have turned towards Lahore and it shall improve only when it rains on Thursday. The situation got so bad that the provincial government had to close down all schools in the city on Thursday. People were requested to stay indoors and not come out unless inevitable. This has become a constant in the lives of Lahoris and November through February, smog costs dearly in terms of health costs and road related accidents due to poor visibility.
This phenomenon of pollution is a global one and can be linked with environmental degradation due to excessive carbon emissions. Vehicle emissions in Pakistan contribute way more to destroying the air quality than anywhere else due to increased vehicular traffic on roads. Even the hitherto environmentally clean city of Islamabad has started to see the smog phenomenon lately.
Since it is a global issue, the solution is supposed to be a global one. All local actions against emissions and polluting activity have to be linked with the global targets or we will continue to witness this deterioration in environment. Blaming neighbours as an Indian minister did recently will go only so far. India will need to curb the practice of burning crop stubble during these months.
On Wednesday the #LahoreSmog was the top trend on Twitter. A group of students petitioned the Lahore High Court seeking implementation of the Smog Policy.
Prime minister addressing a climate change conference in Islamabad said Pakistan is beset with serious environmental conservation and climate change challenges that pose risks to achieving socioeconomic and poverty reduction goals. He also spoke of his government efforts to plant 10 billion trees in the country by the end his tenure. He emphasised the need to pursue the policies that are geared towards conserving natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity.
The global efforts to combat climate change met a setback with President Donald Trump taking the Oval Office. He is unapologetically a non believer in the climate change phenomenon that is now as sure a thing as gravity. He has walked out of the climate agreement that was reached with tremendous efforts put in by president Obama and other western leaders. Now the US is withdrawing from climate agreement with Russia as well. President Trump supposedly is protecting the coal workers in the midland America who form the core of his voters. Other international powers though still are trying to salvage the agreement and just the other day Chinese president Xi and French president Macron agreed on taking steps to stem the tide of aggravating climate.
Although Pakistan is not among the top polluters and is disproportionately impacted by the impact of climate change, it still needs to do whatever it can to delay dreadful impact of this change on its people. While we plant more trees it is important to look after the already planted.