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Understanding nexus of air pollution and sustainability

The consistently glooming economic world to override the crises of unemployment, social miseries, etc has left a remarkable and pronounced adverse impact on the global environment. In meeting the agenda of economic stability we have somewhere knot strong ties and permanent bonds with environmental degradation. In the present hour the effect of the interplay between income and environmental degradation is most prominently visualized when air quality is considered. Air, that lays foundation of life on earth is under critical stress as imperceptibly its being overloaded by pollutants from multiple sources including vehicular emissions, emissions from industrial flues and furnaces, power plants, etc contributing to the introduction of numerous hazardous emissions containing COx, SOx, NOx, etc along with particulate matter. This burning issue of air pollution is not only posing biggest environmental health risks in terms of acute and chronic disease resulting in loss of 6 million lives annually but also toll burden on economic sector by damaging resources, reducing the output of many productive ecosystem, reducing labor efficiency and much more Air pollution is a hot topic of the recent decade in low and middle income countries-especially Africa and Asia where the air quality of approximately 98% of the countries are far beyond the limits and guidelines prescribed by WHO (UN environment programme).

Pakistan being a developing and most urbanized state of the South Asian region is also under taken by the concern of environmental pollution particularly air pollution due to increasing trends of industrialization coupled with increase in urbanization and vehicular movement by many folds as a consequence of increasing population and increased economic productivity. Burning of the fossil fuels and vehicular movement in the country makes 90% contribution to the polluted air causing intense damage to the quality of life in all of its major cities.Pakistan possess one of the largest coal deposits-184,123 billion tones which is even not fully utilized but still play a role in reducing air quality due to emissions of methane-a potent GHG. Dust and smoke particles in Pakistan are generally twice the world average and five times higher than in the developed world. Pakistan ranks 3rd among the top five countries with the highest mortality rates due to air pollution.Impacts of air pollution are found even though disproportionate among people belonging to different age groups but children below 5 years are at the highest windows of vulnerability. Alone ambient air pollution accounts for 22,600 deaths annually in the country and registration of more than 80,000 cases in hospitals and health centers as a consequence of outdoor air pollution are marked according to the study data provided by World Bank in 2014. More than 20,000 premature deaths are reported each year because of air pollution (Express Turbine). Despite of the devastating effects caused as a consequence of air pollution in Pakistan the issue has never been taken in critical concern on political ground and none of the significant legislations have been made to overcome the problematic scene. But the impacts caused are not only confined to the health but poses greater burden on economy of the country but this nexus of the deteriorating air quality with the economic boom and bust is yet to be fully addressed by coming up with a viable solution.


In context of the existing situation in our country wide spectrum of techniques and technologies available can be opted and applied that can aid in achieving the objective of emission reduction, depending on the characteristic nature of the polluted air prior to its emission from the source but as fossil fuel burning is the root cause in our country so shifting trends towards renewables as energy sources can provide an effective remedy. The options available to reduce air pollution at point source level includes installation of bag or fabric filters, cyclonic apparatus, electrostatic precipitators, scrubbers or wet collectors to trap and remove noxious gases from air before its introduced from any source and for removal of particulate matter numerous options including the use of adsorbents, after burners, vapor collectors, etc are available depending on the respective size of particulate matter. Despite of the fact that the procedures vary in their efficiencies, cost and energy effectiveness still they can provide a means of tackling the situation and moving a step towards a healthier harmonized environmental state which will ultimately lead to sustainable economic future by creating employment opportunities, resource efficiency and recovery, market for clean technologies and reduction of abatement costs in Pakistan. In all aspects whether economy, health or scenario of climate change understanding the relation to green environment is vital to achieve future sustainability.

Written by Rohma Zafar — SBK Women University Quetta, Balochistan, Environmental Sciences Department (8th semester)

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