ISLAMABAD: At least 128,000 deaths are reported in Pakistan every year as a result of air pollution and related sicknesses, said Fair Finance Pakistan, a non-government body working to mitigate the impacts of climate change, on the eve of World Clean Air Day.

Pakistan, alongside China and India, accounts for the highest deaths owing to air pollution as millions across the country are forced to breathe air that contains high levels of hazardous pollutants and particulate matter.

The NGO also launched an online campaign to raise public awareness and facilitate actions to improve air quality in the country.

Asim Jaffry, country programme lead, said: “There is a need to change the business model in Pakistan and elsewhere to ensure that business operations exercise responsibility especially the financial sector to ensure net zero carbon footprints, protect human life and the planet’s ecology.”

NGO calls for promotion of environment-friendly policies

He further said that ‘Clean Air Day’ aimed to raise awareness regarding the importance of clean air for health, for human economies and demonstrated the close link of air quality to other environmental and developmental challenges such as climate change.

It is worth mentioning that World Air Quality Index 2021 ranked Pakistan as the third most polluted country in the world, and its major cities, particularly Lahore, are regularly listed among the most toxic cities in the world.

The NGO stated that air pollution and climate change were closely linked as all major pollutants have an impact on the climate. As one of the countries on the frontline of the climate crisis, Pakistan faces grave consequences in failing to address climate change which has resulted in frequent adverse weather events, such as extreme temperatures, droughts and flooding.

The Twitter campaign calls on the policy circles, commercial banks, businesses and civil society to promote responsible investments in the country, promote sustainable transport, just transition towards renewable energy, crop and waste management, monitor air pollution, implement laws and deliver credible plans to reduce emissions from vehicles, power plants, construction and industry.

It builds on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report recommendations for reduction in emissions of methane, black carbon and ground-level ozone alongside carbon dioxide to foster sustainable development by delivering better health, agricultural, economic and climate outcomes through improved air quality.

According to the World Health Organisation, 99pc of the world’s population is now breathing polluted air. Seven million people die each year due to air pollution, with 90pc of them residing in low- and middle-income countries.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) research showed air pollution knows no national borders and is strongly correlated to other global crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss, other forms of pollution, social and gender parity as well as economic development.

The UN agency estimated when people were exposed to air pollution and extreme heat, their risk of death became 20pc higher.

Evidence shows dirty air hits the poor the most and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, such as women, children, and the elderly. The World Bank reports one in every 10 people exposed to unsafe air pollution lives in extreme poverty.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2022

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