Battling smog: Playing with nature is dangerous

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri
Smog is fog with added ingredients of smoke and tiny airborne particulates. Smog causes health hazards, leading to respiratory diseases, skin eruptions and eye problems.
Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

ONE cannot afford to have smug complacency on climate effect. Contrary to some denialists of climate change, its hazards are growing day-by-day.

In Pakistan, the state of Punjab and its capital Lahore are shrouded in a haze of a deadly smog. Unlike last year, it is quite severe this season, forcing the government to act.

Power plants running on gas, diesel and furnace oil are being ordered to shut down, thus causing electricity shortages. Moreover, regulations are being enforced and farmers are being told not to burn waste and crops stubble in the open; avoid building material lying in open spaces and check transport vehicles emitting carbon dioxide and nitrogen fumes.

Trains and air flights have been delayed, redirected or cancelled in major cities due to smog-affected visibility issues. Additionally, drivers are asked to be extra wary on the roads to avoid accidents.

Smog is fog with added ingredients of smoke and tiny airborne particulates. Smog causes health hazards, leading to respiratory diseases, skin eruptions and eye problems.

Meteorologists have also factored in burning of crop stubble, waste and uncovered construction material in open spaces. Some attribute it to the Gulf region where sandstorms are normal this time of the year. So, trans-boundary element cannot be ruled out.

Whatever be the contributing factors, it underscores regional interactivity and the stark fact that climate change is a global phenomenon and not restricted to few countries. This leads to the logical conclusion that any durable solution cannot be compartmentalized due to interconnectivity.

Lately, floods, abnormal weather conditions, extreme heat and cold, lack of rain have affected agriculture, caused drought, led to abnormal rainfall, created floods, and led to displacement of people and incubating many diseases. The US recently faced hurricanes in various states causing untold destruction to life and property.

China is facing the same issue but is taking steps of closing carbon-controlled power plants; regulating traffic in urban areas with odd and even formula and undertaking measures like clean energy transport (solar, wind, electricity, thermal and biogas).

Fast paced industrialization giving short shrift to ecology, denuding of forest cover, dust, smoke and toxic effluents from factories and vehicles are releasing harmful substances in the atmosphere. Cities are becoming hubs of noise, pollution and indiscriminate construction by cutting down trees and vegetation.

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Meeting challenges

South Asia would do well to realize the menace and concentrate on issues bedeviling countries: environmental degradation, terrorism, drug and human trafficking, floods, droughts, deforestation, indiscriminate mining, earthquakes, refugees and overcrowded and ill-planned cities, and above all, reduction in poverty.

The climate change affects crops, leads to infestation and diseases with consequent loss to farmers. Pollution adds toxins in vegetables and fruits. In fact, it affects all forms of plant and animal life. It also spawns new forms of viruses and diseases. Greater ecology consciousness has to be promoted by governments, media and civil society; in addition, induction of climate change in school and college syllabi is essential. This should lay stress on conservation of energy, afforestation and search for alternative and clean energy.

Instead of blaming other nations, it needs to be realized that planet earth is a common heritage of mankind and intricately inter-connected: any tempering with the eco-system is dangerous as adverse climate conditions do not respect national boundaries. The solution is greater sensitivity, conservation, monitoring, local and inter-nation cooperation and desisting from violating nature.

(The writer is Visiting Faculty, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. The article was first published in Business Recorder. Shanghai Daily condensed it.)


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