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Faisalabad is a city in Pakistan, known formerly as Lyallpur. It counts itself as the 3rd most populous city in the country. It is experiencing significant growth both economically and population wise, and due to its central location in Pakistan is a major industrial and distribution hub, with all the necessary connecting roads and railways leading to other cities. It has even been referred to as the ‘Manchester of Pakistan’ due to its many factories and industries present, similar to what the city in England experienced at the turn of the century.
In regards to its air quality, as one may expect from a rapidly developing and heavily industrialized city, the pollution levels are exceptionally elevated. Faisalabad came in with a PM2.5 reading of 104.6 μg/m³ in 2019 as its yearly average, putting it in the higher section of the ‘unhealthy’ ratings bracket, a rating that requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 55.5 to 150.4 μg/m³. As the name indicates, this level of air quality is very much detrimental to the health of its citizens.
This reading of 104.6 μg/m³ was enough to place Faisalabad into 4th place out of all cities ranked worldwide in 2019, as well as 2nd place out of all cities ranked in Pakistan. With a global ranking of 4th place, this indicates that Faisalabad is suffering from some severe pollution levels, with a large number of negative effects amongst its citizens.
The main causes of pollution in Faisalabad include sources such as emissions from vehicles, with numerous cars, motorbikes and heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks, lorries and buses inhabiting the roads. Many of these run on lower quality fuels, or fossil fuels such as diesel, and often aren’t subject to the same stringent rules that other countries might have in place, leading to huge numbers of ancient and outdated vehicles still being in use, putting out vast amounts of smoke and fumes far beyond the level of what a newer vehicle running on cleaner fuel would do.
Other sources are of course the many factories and textile mills around the city, along with brick kilns that number in the thousands, many of which also run on unclean fuel sources and are not subject to any universal regulations.
Other industrial areas that further contribute to pollution levels are ones such as chemical plants, foundries and smelting plants, sugar mills and poultry feed production units. Other causes of pollution include the burning of wood and other materials in homes, dust from roadside areas as well as transborder smoke, which can be blown in from other areas and accumulate within the city, being unable to disperse and causing the heavily elevated numbers as seen on record.
Observing the data recorded over the last few years, a pattern emerges that shows when Faisalabad (and other cities in Pakistan) suffer from their worst levels of air quality. For Faisalabad, these months were at the very end of the year and the very beginning, with the hottest middle months of the year having the lowest readings of PM2.5, with August coming in with the cleanest reading of 48.8 μg/m³, which is still an extremely high level of pollution, despite being the lowest recorded number that year.
Due to the increase in burning during the colder months, as well as the cold weather causing thermal inversion to further entrench the pollution within the city and make it even harder to disperse, the PM2.5 count rises to these excessive numbers. September through to November saw a significant decline in air quality, culminating in December with a reading of 217.3 μg/m³, and with its absolute highest reading in January with 220.4 μg/m³, which coincidentally is also the coldest month of the year in Pakistan.
With numbers coming in as high as 220.4 μg/m³, as well as yearly averages in the past that were even higher (with 2018 coming in with a yearly average of 130.4 μg/m³, compared to 2019’s 104.6 μg/m³) it is without a doubt that the amount of smoke, haze and smog in the air causes a heavy toll on both the mortality rates as well as the economy, costing the city and country as a whole, vast sums of money on problems pertaining to pollution related illnesses.
Some of the health problems that would arise from living in such a polluted environment would include all manner of respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma attacks. Besides these conditions, the toxic materials and fine particulate matter can cause irreversible damage to the lung tissue, causing them to scar and age rapidly, which not only leads to further incidences of the aforementioned illnesses but also reduces quality of life and raises the mortality rate even further. Other health problems would be damage to the heart, kidneys, liver and reproductive system, along with changes to the nervous system that can cause psychological issues and brain damage.
With a large amount of pollution coming from vehicles, pollution such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide would be ever present in the air, along with black carbon and volatile organic compounds, both of which are formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels (such as diesel and coal) as well as organic matter (such as wood or other materials burnt in homes or the numerous factories and brick kilns).
Some examples of volatile organic compounds include benzene, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol and tetrachloroethylene, all of which have highly damaging effects on human health and are very easy to respire due to their gaseous form.
Other pollutants would include carbon monoxide, which would be released alongside the aforementioned nitrogen and sulfur dioxide when open piles of refuse and garbage are set ablaze. Construction sites and poorly maintained roads can also contribute in the form of particulate matters and heavy metals, with ground silica, concrete dust as well as fine pieces of gravel al making their way into the atmosphere, with material such as silica having known carcinogenic effects when inhaled.