Smog puts every person in Lahore at risk: Amnesty

Nov 22, 2019
New Delhi: The Imran Khan government has been slammed in an international report for the inadequate response to the hazardous level of smog in the Pakistani city of Lahore that has put people’s health at risk.

“The government’s inadequate response to the smog in Lahore raises significant human rights concerns. The hazardous air is putting everyone’s right to health at risk,” Amnesty International South Asia Campaigner said Rimmel Mohydin said in a statement.

A 2015 Lancet Report said more than 310,000 people die each year in Pakistan because of poor air quality.

The global rights group on Friday issued urgent action measure for the people of Lahore seeking to mobilise supporters to campaign for thousands of lives in the second largest city in the country with a population of more than 10 million people.

This came days after teenagers sued the government for violating rights to life and health. On 4 November, three teenage girls — Laiba Siddiqi, Leila Alam and Mishael Hayat — filed a suit against the government of Punjab for the “violation of their fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment”.

In the petition, the three students said the government had been downplaying the scale of crisis because its standards of measurement differ from what is used in other countries and accepted internationally.

“The issue is so serious that we are calling on our members around the world to write to the Pakistani authorities to tell them to stop downplaying the crisis and take urgent action to protect people’s health and lives,” Amnesty said.

For one in every two days this month, the air quality here has been classified as “hazardous” by air quality monitors installed by the US Consulate in Lahore and the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative.

The government shut schools down on at least three days this month.

The air quality in Lahore has deteriorated to “hazardous” levels in November this year. Air quality measuring systems advise people to avoid all outdoor activity when that happens.

Air becomes unhealthy when the AQI level reaches 100. At 300 and above, the air is considered “hazardous”.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Lahore reached 580 at 11 p.m. on November 7. Since the beginning of the month, at least seven days have seen air quality reach hazardous levels.

Reports have shown how prolonged or heavy exposure to hazardous air can result in severe health issues, including asthma, lung damage, bronchial infections, heart problems and shortened life expectancy — putting in danger people’s rights to life and to health.

The so-called “smog season” — which runs from October to February — is where poor fuel quality, uncontrolled emissions and crop burning worsens the quality of the already unhealthy air in Punjab.

Lahore has not had a single day of healthy air this year, according to the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative, a citizen-led effort that crowd sources and collates data on air quality.

An AQI of 185, the petition adds, at the Meteorological Department station in Lahore is classified as “satisfactory” on the EPD website but counts as “moderately polluted” in China and India, and “unhealthy” in Singapore, South Korea and the US. IANS