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|2||Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa|
|4||Mirpur Khas, Sindh|
|10||Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|1||house street22 e7|
|3||US Embassy in Islamabad|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Moderate|| 73 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Islamabad is currently 4.5 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
| Sensitive groups should wear a mask outdoors|
GET A MASK
| Sensitive groups should run an air purifier|
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| Close your windows to avoid dirty outdoor air|
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| Sensitive groups should reduce outdoor exercise|
|Friday, May 26|
Moderate 57 US AQI
|Saturday, May 27|
Moderate 76 US AQI
|Sunday, May 28|
Moderate 85 US AQI
Moderate 73 US AQI
|Tuesday, May 30|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 119 US AQI
|Wednesday, May 31|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 121 US AQI
|Thursday, Jun 1|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 111 US AQI
|Friday, Jun 2|
Moderate 99 US AQI
|Saturday, Jun 3|
Moderate 83 US AQI
|Sunday, Jun 4|
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 101 US AQI
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Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan, located in the northern region of the country. It has just over 1 million people living there, and is considered historically to be an area that contains evidence of some of the earliest human settlements. In modern times, Islamabad attracts people from all over the country to migrate there, making it one of the more urbanized and cosmopolitan cities in Pakistan.
In regards to the levels of pollution in the air, Islamabad came in with PM2.5 readings of 35.2 μg/m³ as a yearly average over 2019. This put it as the cleanest city in the whole of the country, coming in at 10th place out of all cities currently ranked in Pakistan.
This reading also put it in 311th place out of all countries worldwide, and whilst this is not as disastrous of a ranking as other cities located in Pakistan (with Gujranwala and Faisalabad taking 3rd and 4th place worldwide in 2019, with PM2.5 readings of 105.3 μg/m³ and 104.6 μg/m³) it still stands to reason that the air quality in Islamabad is by no means safe, and would cause a large number of issues for its inhabitants, particularly those who belong to vulnerable demographics such as young children, the elderly or those with preexisting health conditions or compromised immune systems.
The main causes of pollution in Islamabad would stem mostly from it being a heavily urbanized and cosmopolitan city, as well as some elements that would still persevere from older habits that lead to air contamination. These older practices would include the open burning of refuse and waste, as well as the burning of biomass for heating and cooking around homes.
These factors, whilst still pertinent, do not figure as largely as the more modern and pressing issues such as factory emissions, with large amounts of industrial areas around Islamabad focused on the recycling of scrap metals, the production of bricks via the many brick kilns as well as other chemical production plants, many of which have no fixed regulations in regards to the amount of chemicals or fine particulate matter that they pump into the atmosphere.
Lastly, the most salient source of pollution in Islamabad would be that of vehicular emissions, which along with factory smoke and fumes, would make up the majority of ambient year-round pollution levels (although open burning of garbage is still a dangerous and present practice).
The many cars, motorbikes and outdated heavy-duty vehicles on the roads such as buses, lorries and trucks would all be putting out vast amounts of pollution, with extremely old motors being used as well as lower quality diesel fuels, all of which contribute to a worser quality of air than modern cleaner counterparts would.
Observing the data from the last few years, the months that came in with the worst readings of PM2.5 are the same throughout the whole of Pakistan, and indeed remain the same for Islamabad. The cleanest months of the year take place during the middle months, with March through to May coming in with the cleanest readings of 18.6 μg/m³, 17.2 μg/m³ and 14.6 μg/m³ respectively, making May the cleanest month out of the entire year, with respectable levels of pollution in comparison, noting that 14.6 μg/m³ is only a few units away from achieving a ‘good’ rating of air quality (10 to 12 μg/m³ required for classification).
The dirtiest months came towards the end of the year as well as the very beginning, with a rapid decline in air quality becoming apparent around June, with May going from 14.6 μg/m³ to 20.5 μg/m³ in June, and then up even more to 31.7 μg/m³ in July. This trend continued until an absolute high of 96.3 μg/m³ was recorded in December, making it by far the worst month of the year and putting it into the ‘unhealthy’ ratings bracket, meaning that the end month would have the highest level of danger for those exposed to such high pollution levels.
Once again looking at the data from past years, it does appear that Islamabad is making gradual improvements in its air quality. In 2017, Islamabad came in with a PM2.5 yearly average of 39.2 μg/m³, putting it up a notch into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket (35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³).
In the next year a minor improvement also was taken, with a yearly average of 38.6 μg/m³ being taken. Whilst this was only a subtle change, any improvements in pollution levels are positive, and true to its cleaner readings, continued on into 2019 with the aforementioned average of 35.2 μg/m³, a rating that was low enough to knock it down a group into the ‘moderate’ bracket, albeit on the absolute high end of this grouping.
This shows that pollution levels in Islamabad are making steady improvements, and with the right initiatives may continue to do so in the future.
Despite being the capital city, as well as undergoing rapid urbanization that brings with it a large amount of pollutive sources such as construction sites as well as increased numbers of people and vehicles, Islamabad has fared very well against its neighboring cities, free of the catastrophic spikes of pollution that some of them display.
To give some comparison, the other well-known city of Lahore came in with a yearly PM2.5 average of 89.5 μg/m³, nearly two and a half times that of Islamabad's yearly reading. It also showed massive highs throughout the year, with PM2.5 levels soaring up to 199.1 μg/m³ in January and 182.7 μg/m³ in December, double that of Islamabad's worst reading (also taken in December).
With some other cities reviewed, they also showed the extreme spikes in pollution present at the end and beginning of the year, with Faisalabad coming in with the highest reading in Pakistan out of the entire year of 2019, at 226.2 μg/m³ taken in December, putting it into the ‘very unhealthy’ bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 150.5 to 250.4 μg/m³, and as the name suggests would be disastrous to anyone caught within the city at that time of the year. As such, Islamabad is faring quite well when compared to other cities in Pakistan, and if its trend of improving pollution levels continues, may find itself in a better position in regards to its air quality.
3 Data sources