Lahore: A new study analyzing the causes of smog related to the agriculture sector with an aim to assist government institutions in the development of appropriate policies, action plans and interventions to alleviate detrimental effects of smog on economy, health and environment in Punjab was released in Lahore today.
Mr Malik Nauman Ahmed Langrial, Minister for Agriculture, Punjab launched the report. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under its project R-SMOG (Remote Sensing for Spatio-Temporal Mapping of Smog) has prepared this report upon the request of the Punjab government. This is a first of its kind evidence based geospatial research which will also contribute to findings on emissions and drivers of smog.
The contribution of the agriculture sector to smog through the practice of crop residue burning is significant although it is only the third sector by air pollutant emissions. Sectoral emission inventory of Punjab shows that the major portion of total air pollutant emissions come from the transport sector which holds 43% share, followed by 25% from industrial sector and 20% from agriculture.
Satellite data of atmospheric pollutants are being widely used globally in the decision-making and environmental management activities of public, private sector and non-profit organizations.
Minister Langrial highlighted the collaboration between government and FAO and appreciated the technical support provided by FAO in the preparation of this report.
Welcoming participants, Ms. Minà Dowlatchahi, FAO Representative in Pakistan said: “We remain committed to support government efforts to help devise appropriate strategies and action plans to mitigate the contribution of the agriculture sector to causes of smog particularly in relation to crop residue burning. This report provides insights into the importance of the design and implementation of appropriate climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies and actions. In particular, these should be an integral part of any plan for the revitalization of the Agriculture sector.”
Smog is one of the several forms of air pollutants that cause harm to human functioning. It is normally a combination of several types of pollutants (nitrogen oxides, Sulphur oxides, aerosols, smoke or particulates, etc.) with fog.
Certain meteorological and weather conditions also help these pollutants suspend in the lower atmosphere because of which the pollutants form a dense visible layer of smog. In addition, smog is a transboundary issue that requires regional cooperation.
The research findings, were reviewed by the FAO global technical experts on information with a geographical component, methods and tools and validated by a wide array of Pakistani experts and institutions. Mr Douglas Muchoney , Head of Geospatial Unit at FAO Rome on the occasion said “ This ia an important study to help us look at the effect of Smog on human health. We also need to remember the pervasive effects of smog on terrestrial and marine and aquatic life and its overall impact on biodiversity.”
Using Satellite based measurements to monitor and identify the causes of increased levels of Smog, the findings identify the relationship between Smog and the practice of rice residue burning practices by farmers in the rice belt of Punjab.
The report is aimed at policy and decision makers, and recommends the establishment of smog monitoring and early-warning systems. It also highlights the need to support farmers adopt mechanized farming and adopt climate smart practices to help increase yields.
Pakistan suffered one of the highest death tolls in the world from air pollution in 2015, when according to UN estimates thousands lost their lives because of the high level of fine particles in the air.
This phenomenon engulfs several cities in Punjab province particularly Lahore during the winter months and has evolved into a public health and economic emergency.
FAO is also carrying out water accounting in the Indus Basin using geospatial data and techniques. With more than 30 years of experience in development and use of geospatial databases, methods and tools FAO helps countries implement appropriate solutions and assists government efforts to create sustainable food systems.