The Desolation of Smog


October’s ending. You go to sleep after a long day’s work. Make sure your alarm is set for the next day. Wake up. Have your eggs. Have your tea. Call a cab, maybe. You go outside.

You can’t see a thing.

What just happened?

It’s barely winter – not even sweater season yet. Why the fog?

In your head, you get a glimpse of a time long past, a time you hoped you won’t see again:

Smog Season.

Here we are experiencing a repeat of 2016’s thick smog in Punjab, Pakistan – especially the areas in and around Lahore; coming to the inevitable – and scary – conclusion that this was not just a one-off thing, but, God forbid, might be a regular occurrence.

“Should we be concerned?”

It’s alarming how we’re still asking that question. Of course, we should be concerned. The amount of pollutants in the air is alarmingly high. People are experiencing an aggravation to their health problems or developing new ones such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, eye irritation, colds, lung infections, etc.

“Why are we even experiencing Smog?”

Do you see smoke coming out of that vehicle that just overtook yours from the wrong side of the road only to stop a few meters ahead because of the traffic jam caused by nothing but the abundance of vehicles on the road? Well, all those vehicles are giving off the same smoke too.

There are other cities in the world that have these many cars. Could it possibly be true that the quality petrol used here in Pakistan is actually quite bad? And not just for cars but for the environment as well? I sure do hope if that is the case then some car manufacturer – hopefully a well reputed one – calls these fuel providers out on their quality. I sure hope that happens one day. And I’m sure the oil companies here will look into their petrol and try to improve its quality rather than calling out that internationally reputed car manufacturer and tell it to produce cars with better quality. I’m sure the latter would never happen. Never. Ever.

And these are just the traffic emissions. There’s coal burning, forests burning, complex photochemical reactions of all the pollutants in the air, and a whole lot of other factors as well. All of these pollutants and smoke emissions contribute to smog.

Not to forget all the construction work in an around the area. Yes, construction is harmless… but only if you’re not cutting thousands of trees down to do so (and not replacing any of these).

Or the industries located in the Punjab area (of both India and Pakistan). I’m sure they don’t emit alarmingly high levels of pollutants in the air… I mean, if they do, then they’re probably the ones on the other side of the border, right?

“Shouldn’t that smoke just magically disappear into space?”

Yes, it should. But it too wants to enjoy Lahori chanay and Phajje k paae and maybe some Nutella Naans; and probably sightsee Lahore because Jis Lahore nahin dekhya oh jamiya hi nahi. So, our good friend Smog has dekhya Lahore now. And jamm gaya as well. Unfortunately.

No, smoke does not just disappear into space. It stays. It pollutes the environment (as quite evident). And it’s not going away anytime soon.

“What do we do now?”

Stay at home

Oh wait, we can’t do that. Our livelihood depends on leaving our house every day

Here’s what we can do, though:

  1. Wear surgical masks whenever we’re going outside
  2. Make sure we limit our outdoor activities
  3. Try to limit our exertion – the more we exert, the more we need to breathe the polluted air
  4. Do our part by reducing the amounts of pollutants we emit ourselves
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