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South Asia’s winter smog, threat to ozone

LAHORE, Pakistan

Although the worldwide phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has helped protect the ozone layer, South Asia’s extreme smog, which is worsening each winter, is appearing to be the newest challenge to the ozone shield.

Coinciding the International Day for the Preservation of the ozone layer, being observed on Thursday, Pakistani environmental researcher Farieha Hussain called on India and Pakistan to cooperate to scale back the toxic blanket of smog – coming from vehicle exhaust, coal-burning power plants, trash incineration, brick kilns and farmers’ burning of post-harvest rice stubble.

“Instead of blaming one another all the countries in our region should contribute towards saving the ozone and adapting more eco-friendly approaches in agriculture and industrial departments as we cannot put barriers on pollutant particles which travel through the air,” she said.

To detect and stop the usage of harmful chemicals by industrial units that affect the ozone layer, Pakistan has procured and found out air quality monitors within the city of Lahore, the country’s second-largest city.

“We got mobile air quality monitor from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). And now we are in talks with the planet Bank to urge 30 more air quality monitors from which 25 are going to be fixed and five are going to be mobile,” said Zahid Hussain, secretary at the Environment Department of Punjab province.

Officials said that those monitors will help authorities detect and locate the precise spot where harmful chemicals are getting used to permit them to require strict action against violators.

The ozonosphere, found within the stratosphere around 15-30 kilometers (9-18 miles) above the Earth’s surface, covers the whole planet and protects life by absorbing harmful ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation from the sun.

In 1994, the UN General Assembly designated Sept. 16 because the International Day for the Preservation of the ozonosphere, to commemorate the 1987 Montreal protocol – a worldwide agreement inked by 46 countries, to stop the substances that deplete the ozonosphere.

Some chemicals still in use

Naseemur Rehman, a director at the Environment Department, said the country has abided by the Montreal Protocol provisions and has made the electronics sector free from CFCs.

“We have completed the task of Montreal protocol, which was getting all our electronics freed from Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the subsequent target is to urge obviate hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) completely by 2030- 2040,” he said.

He said that some chemical substances like carbon tet, methyl chloroform, hydrobromic fluorocarbons, bromide, and bromochloromethane are still getting used in several industries.

“Some of those depleting substances are getting used in foaming, cosmetics, and refrigerating industry. The mobile monitor helps us to locate the precise spot from where these substances are generated to require strict action against those companies,” said Rehman.

He said his department is additionally backing research to seek out sustainable replacements for these substances.

Hussain said that despite limited resources, Pakistan was trying its best to match the international standards to enhance air quality.

“Under the Punjab green development program, the planet Bank has granted us $273 million for development schemes, which can be used fully within the coming years,” he said.

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