The recent increase in smog levels in Lahore was anything but unprecedented; the city is perhaps the most polluted in the world as it ranks above 100 on the air quality index.
With the onset of the winter season, the city is engulfed in pollution and smoke as smog pervades everything and makes daily life difficult for its residents. Unfortunately, this has become quite a model over the past five years. As people desperately wait to welcome the winter season every year, after facing a long and exhausting summer, the looming threat of tackling the smog season hangs over them.
However, the question remains: have we done something to combat this? Unfortunately no. It is rather surprising how the government has handled the increasing pollution levels in the country so far. Also this year, as the winter winds began to approach the country, smog enveloped the city of Lahore in the cruelest way – and we continued to wait for the government’s action plan to follow its course. Classes.
Authorities finally broke their silence on the matter – but only to add to our disappointment as the ingenious plan to fight smog was to close all public and private schools every Monday. To the public, however, it made no difference as students either take an extra day off or take online classes from the comfort of their homes and life goes on the same from Tuesday.
While the government apparently took this step out of goodwill to tackle rising pollution levels, it once again shows its naivety and inexperience as the action appears to have had a negligible effect on smog levels. . What is needed then is that our authorities wake up and realize the root cause of the problem if they wish to eliminate it, which means that they must design an informed population policy.
While authorities quickly realized that keeping a large chunk of the population inside their homes would help reduce pollution levels, it’s rather heartbreaking how the real problem has once again been brought under the rug: population growth.
The government needs to be aware of the threats that growing population growth poses to the country, whether they take the form of climate change and pollution crises, or the poor economic performance of the country. Today, the city of Lahore alone has around 11 million inhabitants. Increasing population growth rates, coupled with increased urbanization and internal migration to the city, have caused the city limits to expand further outward in order to meet the demand of the growing population.
Therefore, it is not surprising that we are seeing the development of new housing programs and unparalleled traffic congestion throughout the city. But like everything, it comes at a cost, too: With the city’s large-scale expansion in the form of new housing companies and shopping centers, massive deforestation has taken place over the past decade. As the main source of oxygen becomes depleted, coupled with increasing pollution caused by traffic jams for 11 million people, air quality naturally deteriorates. And, although it is heartbreaking enough to put it that way, if a guided population policy does not take effect immediately, the smog crisis will only continue to worsen in the future.
Pakistan remains the only country in the South Asian region with an average fertility rate of 3.6, and although this poses a huge demographic threat to the country’s development prospects, it is rather disappointing that the government has not yet broken its silence on the demographic crises facing the country today.
Perhaps we can rejoice at the success of our neighboring countries – Bangladesh and more recently India – which have managed to bring their fertility rates down to replacement level and to design a population policy before it runs out. late.
The writer is a research assistant at the Lahore School of Economics.