ISLAMABAD: Vehicular exhausts, containing a range of toxic substances, are suffocating Islamabad, according to health experts and environmentalists.
What Islooites ought to be concerned about is that once these substances, suspended in the air, are breathed in by humans the bloodstream transports the toxins to the body’s major organs.
They say the most obvious health impact of the potentially dangerous vehicle emissions – carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and tiny suspended particles – is on the respiratory system.
Experts have reasons to believe that vehicle emissions are major contributors to, and responsible for, heart illnesses and premature deaths.
Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director General Asif S. Khan said the real time data obtained from the new, highly-sophisticated air quality check stations showed higher suspended particulate matter in air over the capital.
‘Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in air is one of the most serious concerns. PM2.5 is so fine that once inhaled, is settles below lungs and can mix with blood. Not only does it reduce oxygen carrying capacity of lungs but also causes blood clotting,’ he said.
The average level of particulate matter recorded in Islamabad was 75 microgram per cubic metre, way higher than the safe limit of 35 microgram per cubic metre.
The picture was worst in Lahore where the average level of particulate matter was 122 microgram per cubic metre, the highest among the country’s five major cities – Peshawar 79.1 microgram per cubic metre, Quetta 47 microgram per cubic metre and Karachi better than both Islamabad and Lahore with average level of 53 microgram per cubic metre.
‘What we need is an alternative route for the more than 90,000 vehicles that pass through Islamabad on Kashmir Highway because the Army does not allow heavy traffic through the Rawalpindi cantonment,’ he said.
‘It is as serious as heart attack because this traffic emits 1,050kg or more than one ton of particulate matter into the federal capital’s atmosphere in a single day.’
He said under the Pakistan Clean Air Programme, a multi-pronged approach to bring down air pollution, sulphur in diesel had been brought down from one percent to 0.6 per cent.
‘By December 2011, Euro II complaint diesel will be available in Pakistan with 0.05 per cent sulphur content.’
‘There is a positive response from Pakistan Automotive Association and the Engineering Development Board, and notifications have been issued by the Ministry of Petroleum giving six months lead time to all vehicle manufacturers for Euro II compliance by July 2012,’ the Pak-EPA chief said.
He said more than two million vehicles were converted to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). The government was already introducing 8,000 CNG buses – 4,000 CNG buses for Lahore alone of which 50 were already on road.
‘And two-stroke vehicles will be eliminated without creating unemployment using the Green Fund. We are also placing a ban on registration of new two-stroke transport,’ he said.
‘Metals, dust and aerosols mixed in the air we breathe cause harm to health and all concerned offices need to wear team jackets to combat air pollution,’ Mr Khan emphasised.