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National

AR
Ali Raza
November 11, 2017

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Old EPD Punjab machines fail to measure dangerous pollutant

Old EPD Punjab machines fail to measure dangerous pollutant

LAHORE: Three out of five air quality monitoring machines of Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Punjab didn’t have the capability of measuring PM2.5 levels, which is the most dangerous air pollutant and one of the major causes of present smog engulfing the provincial capital.

On Friday, thick smog turned the city into a gas chamber causing serious health problems for the citizens whereas EPD officials termed the smog fog. Environmental experts said higher levels of PM2.5 have serious impact on human health. Had such a situation happened in any developed country a health emergency would have been declared there, they said, adding that consistency in smog is the result of EPD’s failure in enforcing the Punjab government’s directive of immediate stoppage to crop burning, operations of kilns across the province.

Following the grave situation, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) should have stopped construction work on all projects, including Orange Train and Chaubacha Phattak Underpass, but nothing was stopped while no special arrangement was taken to stop rise of dust at these sites.

While travelling on Motorway, one can witness smoke-emitting kilns as well as burning of stubble in fields, which also showed that EPD is a toothless tiger while Provincial Minister for Environment Zakiya Shahnawaz said the government can’t control pollution by 100 percent. She admitted that EPD is short of field staff and can’t enforce government’s writ in letter and spirit.

As per private air quality monitors, the PM2.5 levels in city on Friday was around 444 ug/m3 at 3pm, 503.2 ug/m3 at 4pm and 507.8 ug/m3 at 5pm and it was 511 ug/m3 at 6pm. When the scribe contacted EPD’s director laboratories to get data about PM2.5 levels, he told the scribe to contact EPD’s director administration. The issue was also brought before the EPD provincial secretary who said he will sort out this problem.

Sources in EPD claimed that the department is hiding AQI data because all their five
air quality monitors are not operating as per standards and their reading is not accurate. Sources also said that recently CMIT conducted an inquiry into the EPD affairs and a 45-page report was submitted to the chief minister, action on which is still pending. Sources said the report alleged that monitoring machinery of EPD is not up to the mark and low quality equipment was purchased on higher rates. Chief Meteorologist Muhammad Riaz said that EPD’s machinery installed at the Met office was facing some calibration issues and was not working properly.

The scribe asked these questions from EPD secretary but he didn’t respond. Later, EPD Lab Director Tauqeer Qureshi, while talking with The News admitted that three out of five air monitoring units installed at the Thokar, UET and Lakhodair areas didn’t have the capability to monitor PM2.5 levels. He said PM2.5 levels at the Gaddafi Stadium area was 118 and at Jail Road it was 279. He said if compared, these levels are much lower than present levels in Delhi, India.

Answering the question about CMIT inquiry and its findings, Tauqeer said the inquiry was conducted by two members who were civil engineers and didn’t have any know-how about environmental studies and machinery. 

Environmental expert Rafay Alam said the situation is very grave and needed to be addressed on top priority. He said the chief minister held meetings in last two days but no action has so far been taken. He said EPD was declaring the data about private air monitors exaggerated but not releasing any official data about air pollution.

Environmentalists said that the government should close down schools immediately, ban all kind of vehicular movement at points of concentration or introduce car rotation system, close down all smoke-emitting industrial units and dust-raising development projects besides enforcing a ban on burning the garbage and stubble in farms. The government should aggressively advise the citizens to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities, they stressed.

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