–Sources say EPA reluctant to share data produced by air quality monitoring stations as it is not reliable
–EPA spokesperson says will disseminate data after successful calibration of monitoring stations
LAHORE: With the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continuing to fail in measuring the air quality index, the provincial capital and its adjoining areas on Monday witnessed another spell of toxic smog.
Moreover, the intensity of smog is expected to augment in the upcoming days as the Met office has forecast no rain before October 31.
As per the details, Punjab government, for a month now, had been claiming of taking different steps to curb the menace of smog; such as closing brick kilns and other industries that contribute to air pollution.
Advisor to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, during a media briefing, had claimed that Punjab EPA was all set to monitor the air quality in the province while also stating that at least eleven monitoring stations would be functional by the end of the month. He had said that three systems were already functional, one each in Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Multan.
On another occasion, he had said that stubble burning in Indian Punjab was one of the major causes of smog in Lahore. To monitor trans-boundary pollution, he had claimed that EPA would install an air quality monitoring station on the Pakistan-India border.
However, sources in EPA informed Pakistan Today that amid all these claims, the agency was unable to monitor the air quality in Lahore as well as other parts of the province where the systems had been installed.
“Though EPA has installed five air quality monitoring stations; two in Lahore, one at Met office, another at the Punjab Medical and Dental College (PMDC) and one each in Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Multan, the data produced is not reliable and that is why EPA is reluctant to disseminate it,” they said.
The level of toxic elements like carbon monoxides (CO), oxides of sulfur, oxides of nitrate and particulate matters [PM2.5 and PM10] have reached far beyond Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS), they revealed.
Experts have also criticised the government for “befooling” the public. Environmental lawyer Sardar Aasif Ali Sial said that EPA had been in deep slumber for years despite the concerns expressed by environmental experts.
“Last year, the Punjab government formulated a smog policy but it was not a concrete as experts were not supported by the competent authority or provided technical data.”
Environmental expert Syed Nihal Asghar said the city was at the verge of worst smog and EPA was still reluctant to monitor the air quality.
“EPA has no equipment to produce accurate data of most dangerous pollutants like PM2.5 and without knowing this, no preemptive measures can be fruitful.”
“Government is more concerned about shutting down industries and is ignoring the fact that vehicular emissions are the major source of smog,” Nihal said while claiming that currently, EPA had procured equipment called airpointers to monitor air quality which was “totally unreliable”.
Meanwhile, EPA spokesperson Naseemur Rehman told Pakistan Today that the agency’s air quality monitoring stations were in process of calibration.
“Once calibrated, we will start sharing the air quality data,” he said.