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KARACHI: Karachi has turned world’s fourth largest air polluted city as its air quality index has surged to an unhealthy level of 193, showing utter negligence of the federal and Sindh government towards environmental reforms, says a report released on Sunday. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration, as per IQAir organization report, in Karachi has been recorded 11.8 times higher this month which is above the WHO annual air quality guideline value.

This clearly shows that the federal and Sindh governments’ claims of making huge investments for improving the environment and public health in the city are not true, says a report of Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) in collaboration with Media Matters for Democracy. It says air pollution in Karachi contains solid and liquid particles, and certain gases. The major polluters are transport and industrial emissions followed by burning of garbage, emissions from refrigerators, generators, flying of dust, and stoves used in houses and hotels.

All types of forests, including mangroves along Sindh’s coastline, which used to help absorb carbon dioxide and clean air in Karachi, had been hacked to an alarming level. Karachi’s present mangroves forest cover is 50,000 hectares. In the last 50 years, Karachi has lost 10,000 hectares of mangrove forest due to encroachments, commercialization and infrastructure development.

A Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) report says only 130,000 hectares of mangroves of the 600,000 hectares that existed at the start of the 20th century are now left. The total land area of Sindh Province is 34.84 million out of which 8% forest cover is forest cover, which is low.

According to an international standard, a country should have at least 25 percent of its total land under forest cover to tackle environmental degradation including air pollution.

Hazardous: Lahore tops 'air quality and pollution city' ranking

The new annual economic survey of Pakistan released in June 2021 says Pakistan is a forest deficient country as it has 5.01 percent area under its forest cover.

According to WHO, air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change. From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health. It causes diseases including heart ailments, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, cancer and pneumonia. It says seven million people die globally each year due to exposure to ambient and household air pollution.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can penetrate through the lungs and further enter the body through the bloodstream, affecting all major organs.

Exposure to PM2.5 can cause diseases both to our cardiovascular and respiratory system, provoking, for example stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

New research has also shown an association between prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollution and developmental delay at age three, as well as psychological and behavioural problems later on, including symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression. However, Naeem Qureshi, President at National Forum for Environment and Health, said that air pollution is continuously rising in Karachi, mainly due to emissions from transport, followed by industrial emissions and burning of garbage. Transport is creating 70% air pollution in the city. SM Qaiser Sajjad, Secretary General, Pakistan Medical Association, said: “Karachi has turned world’s fourth largest air polluting city, which is matter of great concern. Air pollution is a slow poison and can even take life in severe conditions.”

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