Increasing number of vehicles entering federal capital pollute ambient air

ISLAMABAD, Sep 25 (APP):Over a million vehicles registered in the federal capital amid those entering regularly from adjoining cities are polluting its ambient air quality.

However, according to recent air quality report released by Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the particulate matter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) have not only exceeded the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) of 35 micrograms per meter cube (mg/m³) rather also the World Health Organization (WHO) fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns 24 hours mean of 20 micrograms per meter cube.

The pollution level comprising particulate matter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) has exceeded the permissible ratio of 35 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m³) which is recorded 53.16mg/m³, the highest ever in the federal capital.

WHO in it’s reports had claimed air pollution to cause huge number of premature deaths. PM 2.5 had been found hazardous pollutant which could penetrate into human blood through lungs cells.

According to the daily ambient air quality report of the federal capital by Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 24 hours average ratio of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur dioxide (SO2) were 12.32 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/ m³) and 9.84 mg/m³ respectively against the respective National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) of 80 mg/m³ and 120mg/m³.

The data was recorded by calibrated air quality monitors fixed at particular positions with proper readings. However, concentrations of PM2.5 during the day and evening times were recorded slightly high, whereas the overall ambient air quality of the federal capital was not healthier today.

Any other data from any source presenting ambient air quality of Islamabad was neither verified nor approved by the PAK-EPA, the report added.

Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director General Farzana Altaf Shah told APP that the federal capital’s air quality was being polluted by industrial and automobile emissions.

She said that the agency was serving notices to all the private and public institutions, particularly schools, colleges and universities, ministries, and motels to properly maintain their fleets of buses and vans.

Farzana, however, admitted that all the buses, whether running on intercity routes or on city roads, were using non-compliant diesel fuel containing high ratio of hazardous sulphur dioxide.

Contrary to the EPA’s claims, smoke emitting vehicles in large number, including buses of educational institutions, can be seen running across the twin cities polluting the air without any check and balance.

“What to talk of other departments when even the Capital Development Authority and the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation, which are responsible to keep the capital clean and pollution-free, themselves have large fleets of garbage collecting vehicles, buses, van and jeeps, emitting clouds of dark smoke on the city roads,” Hassan Jan, who daily travels on Kashmir Highway to reach his office, said.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences spokesperson Dr Khawaja Waseem said the dark vehicular emissions had serious impact on human health. It caused allergy, infection and irritation in the respiratory track which could further develop into cancerous health complications having effects on the nervous system, he added. “The people, especially motorcyclists, should wear pollution masks, some of them have inbuilt air filters, which stop dust particles entering mouths and nostrils,” he said. Dr Khawaja said everyone traveling on the road was at risk of air pollution and masks could help them avoid direct contact with the dark smoke and dust.

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