This unedited picture was taken while trekking to Miranjani mountain top
I have always been a nature lover. The reason I love trekking and seeing the unseen is that I enjoy breathing in clean air away from the city haze. I can see clearer clouds, the night sky full of stars, more visible mountain peaks and untouched lakes. For me these things are priceless. No I can’t image living in a village as we are so used to this modern lifestyle. But never did the dirt of the city bother me as much as it did last month while I was in Lahore and Smog hit us like a devastation.
Everything was normal until one day when we saw some smoke even inside the house. It seemed to be coming from outside. It smelled of burned tyres. When we looked outside, we couldn’t even see our neighbours houses. I realised I had been down with the worst flu of my life where my ears, nose and throat were constantly blocked and my condition hadn’t been improving. It was frightening. I had never ever seen such a strange and scary phenomenon in my entire life. Initially we couldn’t even imagine that the whole city could be under this extreme smog cloud so we started blaming DHA community who has been spraying heavily against dengue. Later we realised thats not the only cause.
I have always been addicted to Tennis and I go to play 2-3 hours daily. When I was driving to the courts that evening, I had to turn on fog lights as the roads were hardly visible. When I reached the tennis courts, I could barely see the end of the courts. My partners came in and they all commented on what is wrong in the air. At that moment, we weren’t sure whats going on. The night lights were turned on as usual once it got dark. We were playing doubles when I saw 3 cobwebs hanging in mid air within our side of the court. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I hit one of them with my racket and I asked my partner to confirm if it was actually a web and that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. A while later, we all complained that our eyes had a burning sensation and were itching. That day we noticed, the other tennis courts were fairly empty. Thats when we realised something isn’t right and we must stop playing and head home. Something serious was happening.
While I walked towards the car, it hit me that all that mist was really just dirt and muck. It wasn’t cold so its definitely not fog or clouds. I decided not to go out and play tennis again till it clears up. There was no sky, just grey color. We didn’t see any clouds. Even the sun looked like a moon when I looked at it directly which showed what thick layer of smog we were stuck in. I get claustrophobic so I suddenly started feeling uncomfortable and felt trapped specially after realising its all muck.
Once I got home, I put the tv on and started listening to the news. They said its an extreme case of Smog in Lahore at the moment. Lahore itself is full of pollution but they said India is also to blame because of two main reasons:
- Record breaking fireworks at Diwali
- Massive crops burned in Indian Punjab
When I started doing my research on the topic, it seemed like not only Lahore but the whole of Punjab is under the spell of this deadly Smog. It was made up of pollutants in the air like dust, smoke, which carry bacteria and infections. The news warned the citizens to close their windows, doors, try to stay indoors and use face masks and sunglasses before going out. We started adhering and even kept a bottle of mineral water in the washroom to clean our eyes and nose with it after coming home from outside.
This is a common phenomenon in East Asia. Countries like China, Korea, Japan, India have been worst hit. It is often known as Yellow dust or Asian dust. They are affected by it year round but the condition worsens in spring time. Since the turn of 21st century it has become a serious problem with longer and more frequent occurrences. Smog is basically a type of air pollutant. Man made smog is derived from coal emissions, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, forest and agricultural fires and photochemical reactions to these emissions. It is common in these countries to buy canned fresh air. It is one of the most popular purchases there. The idea of buying fresh air is sad to sink in.
All our lives, we were raised with the idea that if we need to make anything pure or clean, we give it fresh air. And that we always got from outside. This sudden strange idea that outside was impure and we always had to keep doors and windows closed was quite unsettling. Now it had been 3 weeks since I was down and my throat kept getting worse and worse. I have a work settlement due to which I have to travel to Islamabad one week every month. For a change, I couldn’t wait to get out of Lahore and get some fresh air.
This was the first time in my life when I ever realised the importance and value of clean air to breathe. I always took it for granted. I realised the importance of being able to look at clouds, stars, moon, mountains and just the ability to be able to look. If we make our environment extremely dirty; God forbid, we will not even be able to look at places around us. Its actually like having a blurry eye sight where one cannot see properly. On clear days specially after rain, mere looking at clouds, mountains, lakes is actually a therapy. I could actually sit outside on a hill and just stare at nature at its best for hours. Feels like all our worries and problems are just swept away by the stunning nature.
A recent picture of clouds from Malam Jaba, Swat
This recent awakening was powerful and it struck me like never before. I am actually worried about our children’s future and the world they will live in. If we continue like this, our children will be exposed to threatening pollutants causing disease and illnesses more than ever before. Its so sad that we are being deprived of looking at the gorgeous blue sky, fluffy clouds and blissful mountains. Today, as I drove in Islamabad, I was worried as I couldn’t see the mountains at all. I live in E-11 which is a sector closest to the mountains and if they weren’t visible from here, its shocking how much pollution has spread. We need to understand that Rain is not the solution to this problem. Rain only settles all the muck for a while. We need to wake up right now before its too late. Human beings were not designed to inhale such extensive doses of pollutants in their daily lives. Its us who have made the environment so poisonous. No wonder cancerous diseases are widespread like never before.
This issue requires immediate attention from our government as well as citizens. In Pakistan, cities like Lahore and Karachi are worst hit by pollution at the moment. Developed countries are doing wonders in the field of environment. But we all share this world. No matter how well developed states are looking after the environment, unless all the developing nations unite and work together for the betterment of this world, it won’t be sufficient, and we will all suffer from the consequences. The difference their efforts have made is clearly visible in the clarity of their sky. MOT is a great way of Britain to make sure every vehicle running on the roads is well maintained and does not exhaust deadly fumes. Proper organisation and recycling of garbage is also mandatory.
We as individuals must make sure we change oil of our vehicles in time. We should try not to burn anything as the fumes go directly in our atmosphere. In fact government needs to ban the burning of crops immediately. At the moment, I am traveling from Islamabad to Lahore and I saw countless fields on the way where farmers were burning their crops. Its sad how no one is stopping them. Government should provide cutting machines to poor farmers who cannot afford them. After implantation of the rule, if any farmer is seen burning their fields/crops, they should be fined heavily. Shredding is an alternate way of discarding paper which is not harmful to our environment. Probably the worst contributors are the factories and kilns which constantly exhaust deadly gases into the atmosphere. Government needs to have laws and they need to check if all factories are adhering to them. If not, the factories must be banned immediately. We need to plant as many trees as possible. Its easy if the government can just give this task to universities. 5000 trees to be planted by each university. It can easily be done that way. We should avoid fireworks and tear gas altogether. Government should have rules which are properly implemented. We on individual level should be motivated to work together to save our planet and to make it a healthy place for the generations to come.
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My painting on a pollution free world
Lets join our hands together to make this world a better place. Who is with me in playing our part in preserving our environment? Any ideas on what else we can do to help?