In India, the levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10, which are ultrafine particulates, remained multiple times above the permissible limits in Delhi, forcing people to breathe noxious air and triggering health complications.
While in Pakistan, large swathes of Punjab remained engulfed in toxic smog. Air quality indicators show high levels of particulate matter, with breathing conditions in urban areas ranging from highly unhealthy to very hazardous.
Calling smog a regional issue, Punjab province Minister for Environment Zakia Shah Nawaz Khan said that both India and Pakistan need to collaborate to find a sustainable solution to this problem.
“The only proper forum to do that at the moment is through the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The nature of this emergency is such that let’s say Pakistan effectively tackles smog and India is still struggling, we will, regardless of our efforts, still be affected by air pollution. Hence, it has to be a joint effort,” she said in a statement here.
“Smog is pollution, plain and simple, and it is harmful to us. No one wants it to linger any longer. We have to clean our air. Now to do that, we need to have a three-pronged strategy, a long-term solution, a medium one and a short-term solution. Punjab is already implementing some urgent, short-term measures,” Khan said.
Khan said to nip this evil in the bud, “we have to be sure of its root cause. Is the smog caused only by agricultural factors? How much do urban factories and polluting cars contribute? Even if we ban crop stubble burnings, we have to provide farmers with an alternative”.
“As for India, the federal government can initiate contact across the border. The Punjab government cannot do this on its own. Parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and upper Sindh are also being enveloped in smog so the matter is no longer limited to one provincial government. It should be on the state’s agenda,” she said.