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Monday, 7 July 2014

Health Articles » A Wake Up Call!!

A Wake Up Call!!
(Fateh Ullah Khan Kundi, Peshawar)

The clean air is no doubt, the biggest blessing of nature and a pre-requisite for the survival of human life. Over the last couple of decades, the massive increase in population, urbanization and industrialization has led to the fast degradation of ambient air quality especially in urban areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The large influx of Afghan refugees during the past thirty years has also led to a greater demand for more food, more shelter, more transportation and more manufacturing activities which has ultimately resulted into chronic air pollution problem particularly in Peshawar. Air pollution is certainly a critical threat to this generation and has put a question mark to our survival. Major sources contributing to air pollution are automobiles exhaust emissions, industrial emissions, especially from brick kilns factories, domestic burning, massive burning of solid wastes and wind blown dust arising from unpaved roads. 

Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Smoke, Dust, Hydrocarbons and Tetraethyl lead are the main components of vehicular emissions poured into the urban air. Fuel adulteration and use of ill-maintained vehicles enhances emissions from motor vehicle exhaust. A large amount of suspended dust is generated due to vehicles driving on unpaved road shoulders, poorly maintained and overcrowded roads. In Peshawar, being a boarder City of Afghanistan, the large influx of Afghan transporters has greatly increased the problem of air pollution.

Industrial emissions from chimneys are also a source of air pollution in Peshawar. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there are about 1500 industrial units with 305 Chips and Stone Crushers as well as 450 Brick Kilns. The industrial units in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are scattered over a vast stretch of the province with greater concentration in and around the cities of Peshawar, Haripur, Charsadda, Nowshera and Gadoon Amazai.

Approximately 450 brick kilns are situated in and around Peshawar City. Taking a monthly average a brick kiln producing 800,000 bricks uses large amount of rubber to start the fire and burns a total of eight tons fire wood, 200 tons of low quality coal, 20 drums of used mobile oil. The combustion of old rubber tyres and used mobile oil in these factories emits hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and Sulphur dioxide. The emissions from brick kilns also include many other toxic pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Carbon monoxide (CO) and Dioxins, which is believed to be carcinogenic. The increased number of Brick Kilns situated in the Province particularly in Peshawar have almost doubled the level of air pollution mainly due to the use of large amount of rubber, low quality of coal and used oil for burning purposes e.g. 67% PM10, 13% CO, 6% NOx, and 49% SO2 are contributed by brick kilns. Stake emissions from most of the industries are unregulated and uncontrolled except few industries which have installed treatment facilities.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the generation of municipal solid waste is estimated to be between 0.6 to 0.8 Kilograms per day per capita and virtually there doesn’t exist any appropriate waste management system. Approximately 40% of the generated wastes remain at collection points, or in streets, where they emit a host of pollutants into the air, making it unacceptable for breathing. Also the roadside and on dump burning of the municipal solid waste's generates air pollution problem. Burning of the wastes generates Furan and Dioxin gases which on inhaling produce diseases even worse than cancer. Domestic burning of fuel i.e. wood, animal dung especially in rural areas also contributes to air pollution. The burning of garbage, straw and other things for domestic uses may produce air pollution although on small scale but a potential cause of health problem. Dust arising from small scale domestic activities also contributes to over all air pollution in the urban areas. In city center and bazaars the numerous outside food stalls and restaurants also cause local air pollution due to frying meat in oil and roasting on charcoal fires.

The first step taken by the Environmental Protection Agency, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to control the ambient air pollution was the establishment of vehicular emission testing station (VETS) in 1997 which has tested more than 150,000 vehicles so far. The percentage of passed vehicles was clued very much less (24%) in the case of diesel operated vehicles. All the CNG driven vehicles were totally passed while the 5% of Gasoline driven vehicles were rejected. In order to cope with the brick kiln emissions, the use of rubber in brick kilns were banned by the Provincial Govt. orders issued through a handout on October 13, 1999. Accordingly, EPA issued notices to most of the brick kilns to immediately stop the use of rubber in their kilns. A program was initiated for the Brick kiln Owner Association under a GTZ assisted project for giving them training in good house keeping, energy saving thus indirectly decreasing the emission levels.

The existing road transport plans of Peshawar do not fulfill the requirements of the whole population residing in Peshawar City. Many commercial areas and residential colonies are not accessible by the present public transport system and the public are compelled to use private cars, taxies and auto-rickshaws to approach these areas. EPA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is working on a project to design such a public transport management system which fulfills the requirements of the whole public residing in the city. This is a long term project which needs a lot of investment but the activity is on high priority at the Provincial Development Program.

An effective monitoring requires reliable ambient air pollution measurements equipments and permanent monitoring stations. Presently none of the agency has yet installed permanent monitoring stations for air pollution measurements. EPA is going to acquire mobile laboratory in the near future through a mega JICA grant which shall be used for monitoring of liquid effluent and air emissions from industries, municipalities and motor vehicle exhaust. In the present circumstances, EPA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa carry out random monitoring of air pollutant gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, Sulphur dioxides and noise level with the help of portable pocket gas detectors. What we need is to come forward and indulge ourselves in the environmental movement individually and collectively to improve the air quality and thus save ourselves from yet another trauma.

(The writer is an undergraduate level student of Civil Engineering and Freelance Columnist)
Disclaimer: All information is provided here only for general health education. Please consult your health physician regarding any treatment of health issues.

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