Peshawar’s growing population and lack of tree cover have aggravated its air pollution over the years. With no remedy in sight, the locals will have to live with hazardous air for the foreseeable future.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) capital, which has a population of over two million, was recently declared Pakistan’s third-most polluted city. This is due to annual particulate matter (PM) levels of 2.5 which exceed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines by 12 to 16 times, according to a report by a civil society organization.
The current PM levels surpass the KP Environmental Quality Standards by more than four times, according to Express Tribune which quoted official data from a report. Consequently, Peshawar’s residents lose 2.3 years of their life on average due to air pollution which causes various health issues. The report’s author, Dawar Butt, told the publication that transportation emissions were a key cause of air pollution.
“Transport emissions contribute 58.46 percent of the pollutants, followed by dust, domestic sector, industry, waste-burning, and lastly commercial activity,” the report read.
The emissions are directly related to the increasing number of vehicle sales. Approximately half of the 850,000 vehicles that were registered in Peshawar by the end of 2020 were motorcycles and scooters whose presence climbed by 168.8 percent between 2012 and 2020, according to the report. Additionally, the 900 industrial units and 450 brick kilns in the city actively contribute to its deplorable quality of air.
Environmental lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam wants the government to pay heed to the concern and provide the provincial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the necessary manpower, equipment, and budget to fulfill its duties and responsibilities in this regard.
He remarked that “civil society, universities, start-ups, and the private sector should also do more to create awareness and lobby for changes required to bring air quality to less unhealthy levels”.
When questioned about Peshawar’s poisonous air, the Director-General EPA KP, Muhammad Anwer Khan, mentioned the lack of access to real-time statistics and credible data as the greatest obstacles to successfully combating air pollution in the city. He added that the EPA intends to work closely with all government, civil society, and business sector players to achieve the goal of attaining better air quality in Peshawar.