Disasters & Accidents

Pakistan’s artificial rain brings no respite from air pollution woes

Islamabad, Dec 19 (EFE).- Pakistan’s Lahore city remained at a concerning second on the list of the world’s most polluted cities on Tuesday, despite efforts to combat hazardous air pollution through artificial rain over the weekend.

According to Swiss air quality monitoring company IQAir, Lahore recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 198, while Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had an AQI of 239, considered ‘very unhealthy’ by WHO standards.

India’s eastern city of Kolkata shared the unenviable second place with Lahore, registering a peak of 187 micrograms of PM (particulate pollution) 2.5 per cubic meter of air, considered “very unhealthy” as per the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, ranked as the country’s second-most polluted city with an AQI of 165, categorized as “unhealthy.”

On Tuesday, the concentration of PM2.5 in Lahore was 25.4 times higher than the WHO’s annual air quality guideline value. In Karachi, the PM2.5 concentration was recorded 16.6 times higher than the recommended levels.

The WHO’s Air Quality Guideline recommends that concentrations of PM2.5—small dust or soot particles in the air—should not exceed an annual average of 5 micrograms per cubic meter.

The main contributors to pollution are transport and industrial emissions, followed by the burning of garbage, emissions from refrigerators, generators, dust, and stoves used in homes and hotels.

In an unprecedented move, the Punjab provincial government used artificial rain at several locations in Lahore on Saturday to mitigate the toxicity in the air.

Cloud seeding was used to induce rain in a 10 to 15 km diameter around pollution hotspots in the city.

Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi said the experiment was a “gift” from the United Arab Emirates, which funded the artificial rain experiment. The chemicals sprayed from two UAE planes triggered the rain.

The UAE has used the technique to generate rain in the country’s extensive arid areas.

Artificial rain, or cloud seeding, is a weather modification technique involving the release of a mixture of salts into clouds by aircraft to increase condensation.

Pakistan is home to several of the world’s most polluted cities, with high levels of toxicity from diesel fumes, seasonal crop burning, and winter temperatures.

The country ranks among the 10 most climate-vulnerable nations worldwide.

According to World Bank, air pollution causes an estimated two million premature deaths each year in South Asia, home to nine out of the world’s 10 worst polluted cities.

Home to nearly two billion people, the densely populated region comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The World Bank report released in March said South Asians were exposed to excessively unhealthy ambient air pollution, especially in densely populated, poor locations.

In South Asia, nearly 60 percent of the population lives in areas where concentrations of PM2.5 exceed an annual mean of 35, micrograms per cubic meter. EFE

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