Think environment

Vehicles and industries constitute the biggest contributors of smog forming pollutants

A lot has been written, but a lot more needs to be done about air pollution. Air pollution is a worldwide problem. A survey of 1,600 cities by the World Health Organisation found air pollution had worsened since a similar survey in 2011. Health officials around the world warn that air pollution is only getting worse; and not just in poorer states.

Smog is a form of air pollution, named for the mixture of smoke and fog in the air. Industrial and vehicle pollution, as well as things like incinerators and open burning, make up part of the problem. Smog can inflame breathing passages, decrease the lungs’ working capacity, and cause shortness of breath, pain when inhaling deeply, wheezing, and coughing. It can cause eye and nose irritation and it dries away the protective membranes of the nose and throat and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infection, increasing susceptibility to illness.

Britain has long been affected by mists and fogs, but these became much more severe after the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s. Factories belched gases and huge numbers of particles into the air, which in themselves could be poisonous. When some of the chemicals mix with water and air, they can wrench into acid which can cause skin irritations, breathing problems, and even corrode buildings. There are reports of thick smog, smelling of coal tar, which blanketed London in December 1813. Holding out for several days, people claimed you could not see from one side of the street to the other.

The most lethal incidence of smog in London took place in 1952. On Friday 5 December 1952, thick yellow smog brought London to a standstill for four days and is figured to have killed more than 4,000 people. London’s air may seem much cleaner today, but is still dangerously polluted. The coal pollution that caused the infamous ‘pea soupers’ has been replaced by invisible pollution, mainly from traffic exhaust.

Because of the smokeless zones, reduced levels of sooty particulates eliminated the intense and persistent London smog. A series of laws were brought in to avoid a repeat of the situation, including the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968. These acts banned emissions of black smoke and decreed residents of urban regions and operators of factories must convert to smokeless fuels. This form of smog has now become a thing of the past, thanks to pollution legislation and also to modern developments.

Last year, about 60,000 Pakistanis died from the high level of fine particulate matter in the air, among the highest death tolls in the world from air pollution, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)

A couple of years ago I read about Stefano Boeri, an Italian architect, who is known for a skyscraper project in Milan called Bosco Verticale. It means Vertical Forest where he covered two skyscrapers in trees and plants. Vertical forest is a manikin for a sustainable residential building, a project for metropolitan reforestation contributing to the regeneration of the environment and urban. The inspiration of Stefano Boeri is the concepts of residential high-rises packed with greenery, which can help cities build for density while improving air quality. The two towers with over 100 apartments between them together host nearly 500 medium and large trees, 300 small trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 plants.

His firm itself is currently acting on new vertical forests in China, including an ambitious Forest City in the city of Nanjing. A city covered with one million plants and 40,000 trees will soon be constructed in China. The ‘forest city’ every bit it’s been called is planned to be built in Liuzhou, in southern China by 2020. Trees are a central element in understanding architectural projects and garden systems. In this case the choice of the types of trees was made to fit their positioning on the facades and by height, and it took two years to finalise it, alongside a group of botanists. The plants used in this task will be grown specifically for this purpose and will be pre-cultivated. Over this period these plants can slowly get used to the conditions they will find on the edifice.

In Pakistan now, it’s the time of the year, when Lahore is covered with nasty and almost irritating smog. Last year, about 60,000 Pakistanis died from the high level of fine particulate matter in the air, among the highest death tolls in the world from air pollution, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Heavy smog loaded with pollutants has covered several urban and rural areas in eastern Pakistan, causing breathing problems. Experts say increasing construction dust, burning of garbage, factories emissions and motor vehicle exhausts are all leading factors to the phenomenon. Due to urban development Lahore has lost about 2500 trees in couple of years.

The Punjab Environment Protection Department (EPD) is making utmost efforts to lessen the smog in the metropolis. A smog policy approved by the Punjab Environment Protection Council is being enforced. The department is taking short-term and long-term measures in this respect. The department has instituted a number of emergency measures to mitigate the pollution, such as banning the burning of agricultural waste and closing steel mill factories.

Stubble burning in neighbouring India has also been adduced as a major culprit behind worsening pollution. The New York Times published a NASA Satellite image of Pakistan and India which shows high levels of fires and thermal aberration in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.

Farmers are going along to burn most of the leftover fodder, to make room to plant their winter wheat crop. Declared the world’s most polluted city by the World Health Organisation in 2014, Delhi’s air leaves a great deal to be desired. The heap of villains in this air are outdated fuel standards for vehicles, nearby factories, coal and gas plants sputter out toxic smoke, annual crop burning in neighbouring states and the use of firecrackers at Diwali despite a ban by Indian Supreme Court.

Vehicles and industries constitute the biggest contributors of smog forming pollutants. The best path to reduce smog is to therefore to take the lead in managing gaseous emissions from cars and industries. For industries, the use of renewable energy sources and the fabrication of environmentally friendly consumer products are fundamental, use of public transport, proper care of the car and walking or biking instead of driving can significantly reduce smog pollution.

Lahore Metro bus service was the first contribution towards public transport in major metropolises, which was followed by Islamabad and Multan ultimately. The Orange Line Metro project is under construction and will dramatically increase public transport in the city by serving a quarter million passengers per day, relieving some of the traffic congestion on the road. The regime should provide environmental shelter and face masks. Awareness about pollution should be taught at every level of education.

The trees are the cheapest and most efficient way to absorb carbon dioxide. Your house is your sanctuary; fill your house with indoor plants if you can’t plant trees outside your homes. Think green and make your environment green, we can beat our common enemy together.

 

The writer is a traveller and freelance writer based in UK. He has previously written for @the_nation @Dawn_com @DunyaNews @TheAsians He can be contacted on husains50@yahoo.com

Published in Daily Times, November 5th 2017.