The persistent and very unhealthy air quality in Peshawar for five consecutive days raises serious concerns, surpassing even Lahore’s air quality on several occasions. Although Peshawar may not currently feature among the world’s most polluted cities, the hazardous conditions demand immediate attention, and the city’s air quality has become a pressing environmental issue.
Data from IQAir, sourced from air quality monitors by the Bank of Khyber, Peshawar Clean Air Alliance, and the US Consulate, illustrates the severity of the problem. On December 8, Peshawar’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 247, categorised as very unhealthy, exceeding Lahore’s AQI of 233. Similar concerning trends were observed on December 4, 5, and 6, underscoring the persistent and escalating nature of the issue.
Peshawar’s environmental challenges stem from various sources, including industrial emissions, vehicular pollution, and biomass burning. The increasing frequency of cities like Lahore, Karachi, and now Peshawar grappling with deteriorating air quality underscores the urgency for effective policies and collaborative efforts nationwide to combat air pollution comprehensively. Peshawar’s absence from the world’s most polluted cities list is attributed to a scarcity of air quality monitors and its smaller population compared to metropolises like Lahore and Karachi. The geographical features, including surrounding mountains and a valley setting, contribute to pollutant accumulation, especially during winters when dispersal is less effective. As Dr. Khan Alam, a professor at the University of Peshawar, points out, winters exacerbate the pollution crisis due to dry conditions and calmer air. Industrial and vehicular emissions, combined with biomass burning, emerge as primary culprits. Anwar Khan, director-general of the Environmental Protection Agency KP, acknowledges Peshawar’s poor air quality, emphasising the need for immediate and effective action.
The upcoming meeting called by the caretaker chief minister on Tuesday signals a recognition of the gravity of the situation. The discrepancy in air quality monitor data, noted by Mr. Khan, emphasises the importance of a robust monitoring system. Peshawar’s proposed Rs 70 million air quality monitoring system is a step in the right direction, signalling a commitment to addressing the pressing issue of air pollution in the provincial capital and ensuring the well-being of its residents.