Senator Sherry Rehman urges immediate action to address Pakistan’s alarming air pollution levels

Islamabad: Senator Sherry Rehman, Vice President of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), on Wednesday expressed deep concern regarding Pakistan’s alarming air pollution levels, as highlighted in an annual report by the Swiss air-monitoring organization IQAir, and stressed the necessity of decisive action, urging the implementation of the National Clean Air Policy 2023 to reduce air pollution to safe levels.

She said: “According to the annual report by IQAir, Pakistan ranked second in the list of the world’s most polluted cities in 2023. Bangladesh secured the top position on this list, yet the air pollution rates between Pakistan and Bangladesh showed no significant difference. IQAir recommends an average air pollution level of 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter (PM). However, it is alarming that Pakistan recorded an air pollution level of 73.7 PM in 2023, surpassing the dangerous threshold and posing a severe health risk to our citizens.”
The Senator added that the situation persisted in cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and numerous others, even after the conclusion of winter, with Pakistani cities remaining on the list of polluted areas.

“Taking decisive action, such as implementing the National Clean Air Policy (NCAP) 2023, is essential to reduce air pollution to safe levels,” she said.

Expanding on the National Clean Air Policy (NCAP), she highlighted its ambitious objectives and measures designed to decrease air pollution levels across the country.

“The NCAP sets clear targets to reduce PM2.5 emissions by 38% in 2030 compared to the baseline scenario and by 21% compared to 2020 levels. Furthermore, it aims to reduce emissions by 81% in 2040 compared to the baseline scenario and by 70% compared to 2020 levels,” she said, adding that the policy was designed to provide a comprehensive framework for improving air quality nationwide.

“It recognizes the crucial role of provinces in implementing measures to enhance air quality within their respective jurisdictions. Building on Pakistan’s first National Inventory for Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) compiled in 2022, the NCAP identifies priority actions for SLCP mitigation. The policy aligns with Air Quality Guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2021, serving as a reference for identified targets,” she explained.

The Senator added that the NCAP outlined specific measures across five key sectors to accelerate progress in reducing air pollutant emissions: transport (implementing Euro-5 and Euro-6 Fuel Quality Standards), industry (enforcing emission standards for industries), agriculture (preventing burning of agricultural residues), waste (preventing open burning of municipal solid waste), and households/residential (promoting the use of low-emission cooking technologies).

“It is essential to implement these measures effectively and both provincial and federal governments must collaborate to achieve tangible improvements in air quality and safeguard public health. This is the fork in the road when they, like all of us, must do more.”