Pakistani officials blame India for Punjab smog, experts refute

Islamabad
5 Nov 2017

Refuting Pakistani officials' claim that stubble burning and coal-fired power plants in India are to be blamed for the deadly smog in Punjab, the country's top scientists have asserted that its source is in the Middle East. Citing the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, the officials had claimed that it had spotted 2,620 fire incidents in Indian Punjab on November 2, while there were only 27 such cases in Pakistan’s Punjab. A large swath of Pakistan's Punjab has been reportedly covered with a thick blanket of smog for the past three days, causing traffic problems, power outages, and respiratory illnesses among people. The situation is particularly ‘alarming’ in the south and central districts of Punjab which had witnessed a similar situation around the same time last year, the Express Tribune reported.
Pakistani officials fear that the smog, besides affecting health, would also affect agriculture and livestock, which in turn will hurt the national economy.
However, a top Pakistani scientist has refuted the claim, saying the main source of the smog is trans-boundary pollution originating in the Middle East. “Every year the Middle Eastern countries, especially Iraq, Syria, and Iran, are hit by heavy sand and dust storms, which form dust clouds,” Asif Shuja, an ex-director general of the Environmental Protection Agency was quoted as saying. “These dust clouds travel thousands of kilometers to other countries, including Pakistan, mostly in April-June and September-November,” he said. Shuja said the impact is severe this year due to the continued dry spell in the country. “This situation would have a negative impact on health, livestock, besides affecting agriculture, transport and flight operations,” said Pervaiz Amir, former member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change. At least 17 people were reportedly killed in road accidents in Punjab because of poor visibility due to smog. The authorities had to also shut down several nuclear power plants of 1,200-megawatt capacities on Friday due to the heavy smog.