I guess, it is time. Time to switch your regular masks to air purifying ones, because, clearly, we have multiple issues at hand and the relevant departments are yet to figure out ways to combat them so until then, why not switch to air purifying masks? I remember vividly there was a time when Lahoris would look forward to the aesthetic vibe of reduced visibility during October, November and December and pleasant mornings. Poor souls kept thinking it was fog when actually it was smog. Lahore’s air quality is the worst. We all know that it keeps worsening every year and there’s no solid plan to tackle this calamity. This mix of smoke and fog, directly and indirectly, affecting every single being is reducing our average life expectancy by several years. What used to be around burning coals where you can hardly breathe now prevails in the whole city. Sadly, despite having 10 whole months, no actions are being taken and the problem won’t solve itself. Air pollution in Lahore is increasing over the past two decades and is currently, the most air polluted city in the world. Second and third spots being secured by the cities from the same part of the world which shows that any action taken in curbing the issue should be dealt with in the whole region and not only in one city. Brick-kilns, factories, power plants, crop burning, smoke emitting vehicles along with other factors are continuously contributing towards contamination of the air. The initial reports this year stated that 28 districts in Punjab are contributing to smog by burning crop remains. This includes Lahore, Faisalabad, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur and adjoining areas. Increased vehicles, factories and industrialization from Indian and Pakistan’s Punjab are to be blamed. But why isn’t anything being done in this part of the region? Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA) comes into action right after smog starts trending on media, what exactly do they do all year long to curb the calamity? Only one solution is prescribed, which is to close off factories and impose a fine on smoke emitting vehicles, that too, during October and November. What happens to the unemployment that would come as a result of this action? Not to mention the mental health issues in the low-income class that is already fighting inflation and making ends meet from salary to salary. Poor people of Punjab are already dealing with covid, dengue, viral infections, inflation, gas shortage and what now? According to WHO, exposure to air pollution is estimated to cause seven million premature deaths and result in the loss of millions more healthy years of life. More than 200 million Pakistanis are inhaling polluted air. In major cities of Punjab, people live 3.8 years less than the rest of the areas and Pakistan being the fifth-highest air polluted country in the world is losing 2.7 years life expectancy due to poor air quality. Air pollution is cutting off global life expectancy to 1.8 years. In children, this could include reduced lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. In adults, heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death attributable to outdoor air pollution. Why haven’t we made it our priority yet? Wouldn’t it be better if PEPA, instead of waking up around the time of smog, work all year to come up with multiple solutions to the problem? Reenacting the policies through which Japan, the US, UK and China controlled their air pollution. India has also worked on the same model as China and was able to reduce its air pollution by 20-30 per cent. Along with that, the sewerage system needs to be in check, solid waste must be managed efficiently, Punjab safe cities authority could prove helpful in controlling dust and figuring out vehicles that need to be checked. Euro 2 and 3 standard public transport buses need to be used with quality fuel, recyclable materials need to be used, more trees must be planted. Closing factories is not a solution, alternative needs to be mapped out. I can keep writing about it and the relevant authorities are well aware of all the ways this can be tackled. Poor people of Punjab are already dealing with covid, dengue, viral infections, inflation, gas shortage and what now? We can add several years to the expected life span by controlling air pollution for which the state must take proactive measures. We are not the only ones facing this problem. Urban development is a challenge and opportunity at the same time and with this, pollution intensifies. It is a universal phenomenon. However, It can be managed. The authorities just need to act smart by making this a top priority and sadly as of now, this isn’t on their priorities list. The writer is a member of the staff.