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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy|| 186 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Multan is currently 24.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Saturday, Dec 2|
Very unhealthy 212 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 3|
Very unhealthy 245 AQI US
|Monday, Dec 4|
Very unhealthy 253 AQI US
Unhealthy 186 AQI US
|Wednesday, Dec 6|
Unhealthy 161 AQI US
|Thursday, Dec 7|
Unhealthy 158 AQI US
|Friday, Dec 8|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 137 AQI US
|Saturday, Dec 9|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 141 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 10|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 145 AQI US
|Monday, Dec 11|
Unhealthy 162 AQI US
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Multan is a city located in the Punjab region of Pakistan, being one of the 7th largest cities in the country as well as being a prominent cultural and economic hub of southern Punjab. It has a well developed infrastructure of public transport, and is well connected to many other countries in Asia and the middle east. It is subject to some fair extremes of weather conditions, which can affect the subsequent levels of air quality, due to the effect that meteorological conditions can have on pollution accumulation.
In the early days of 2021 as well as the very tail end of 2020, Multan was coming in consistently with some elevated readings of PM2.5, indicating that it does indeed have a problem with pollution, a problem that is unfortunately shared by many other cities in Pakistan. In late December of 2020, PM2.5 readings varying from as low as 40.3 μg/m³ were recorded, going all the way up to readings as high as 136.3 μg/m³.
Multan's highest readings would put it into the ‘unhealthy’ group rating, one that requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 55.5 to 150.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. Thus, its readings put it at the higher end of this bracket, making the air quality on such days bracket of significant danger to its citizens, with young children, the elderly, the sick or immunocompromised as well as expectant mothers being particularly at risk.
As with many cities across Pakistan, Multan has problems with its pollution levels arising from similar sources. With over 1.8 million people living within the cities limits, subsequently there would be many anthropogenic (manmade) causes of pollution occurring, such as the mass movement of people in and out of the city, as well as within the city in daily commutes to work.
As such, vehicles would be one of the largest contributors to air pollution in Multan, with numerous cars and motorbikes inhabiting the roads, many of which would be using old and outdated engines that would fall well below international standards, due to their higher pollutive output. Further compounding this is the fuels that they run on, with many lower quality fuels being available locally as well as diesel fuels still being widely used. These put out far larger amounts of pollution in their fumes than cleaner counterparts would, and as such can have a very detrimental effect on the health of Multan's citizens during peak hours of traffic.
Other causes of pollution would be emissions from factories and industrial sites, the burning of poor quality fuel or biomass for the firing of brick kilns, open burn sites to dispose of garbage (sometimes including synthetic materials such as rubber or plastics) as well as particulate matter coming from poorly maintained construction sites and road repairs.
With much of its pollution arising from the combustion of both fossil fuels and other materials, most of the pollution in Multan would find itself associated with the aforementioned processes. High usage of cars, motorbikes and even heavy duty vehicles such as lorries, trucks and buses can lead to the air being permeated with chemical compounds such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), with sulfur dioxide leading to acidification of rainclouds and the subsequent damage to the environment that arises from that, as well as nitrogen dioxide being the most prominent compound released here, often correlating directly with high vehicle usage, as in areas that see high volumes of traffic often have an associated high level of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere and on ground level.
Other pollutants would include ones such as black carbon, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), some of which would include benzene, toluene, xylene and formaldehyde, all of which are highly hazardous to breathe, as well as extremely easy to respire due to their volatile nature rendering them into a gaseous form even at lower temperatures.
Besides black carbon, other fine particulate matters would include finely ground dust and gravel, as well as minute particles of silica, which alongside black carbon is known to have carcinogenic effects when inhaled.
With readings as high as 136.3 μg/m³ being recorded at the end of 2020, and with averages of 80 μg/m³ coming in during the early portion of January 2021, as one would imagine, with these numbers being labelled in the ‘unhealthy’ group rating, there would be a subsequent high amount of health issues related to breathing this air.
Some of them would include rapid aging of the lungs, as well as scarring of the lung tissue and damage or irritation to the lining of the respiratory tract. All of these can reduce overall lung function, as well as make one more susceptible to further pulmonary diseases down the line. Some of these would include instances of aggravated asthma attacks, pneumonia, bronchitis as well as emphysema.
Other issues would include considerably higher rates of cancer, mainly regarding the lungs and throat, but also possible in many other areas of the body due to PM2.5’s ability to break through the blood barrier in the lungs and enter the circulatory system. Once in the bloodstream, PM2.5 can wreak havoc on the blood vessels, causing damage to them as well as instances of ischemic heart disease, increased chances of heart attacks as well as damage to the hepatic and renal systems (liver and kidneys).
These are but a few of the highly negative side effects of being exposed to polluted air in Multan, with many more available depending on how long an individual is exposed, the intensity of exposure along with physical predispositions and sensitivities towards certain chemicals and pollutants.
Some initiatives that the city of Multan could do to reduce its pollution levels in the long run, would be to crack down and introduce more stringent road rules, particularly regarding outdated vehicles that put out far more pollution than is considered safe. Others would be to monitor factories and hold them responsible by the introduction of charges and fines if they also exceed safe pollution level output.
Others would be to better maintain construction sites to reduce fine particle matter spilling off, as well as putting forth more initiatives to get people to make the switch over to public transport or ‘greener’ forms of transport such as cycling or walking instead of taking their cars or motorbikes. These are all small steps that if added together would go a long way in assisting to clean up the polluted atmosphere of Multan.