The state of ambient air quality in Pakistan—a review
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Background and purpose
Pakistan, during the last decade, has seen an extensive escalation in population growth, urbanization, and industrialization, together with a great increase in motorization and energy use. As a result, a substantial rise has taken place in the types and number of emission sources of various air pollutants. However, due to the lack of air quality management capabilities, the country is suffering from deterioration of air quality. Evidence from various governmental organizations and international bodies has indicated that air pollution is a significant risk to the environment, quality of life, and health of the population. The Government has taken positive steps toward air quality management in the form of the Pakistan Clean Air Program and has recently established a small number of continuous monitoring stations. However, ambient air quality standards have not yet been established. This paper reviews the data being available on the criteria air pollutants: particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and lead.
Air pollution studies in Pakistan published in both scientific journals and by the Government have been reviewed and the reported concentrations of PM, SO2, O3, CO, NO2, and Pb collated. A comparison of the levels of these air pollutants with the World Health Organization air quality guidelines was carried out.
Particulate matter was the most serious air pollutant in the country. NO2 has emerged as the second high-risk pollutant. The reported levels of PM, SO2, CO, NO2, and Pb were many times higher than the World Health Organization air quality guidelines. Only O3 concentrations were below the guidelines.
The current state of air quality calls for immediate action to tackle the poor air quality. The establishment of ambient air quality standards, an extension of the continuous monitoring sites, and the development of emission control strategies are essential.