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Rights Group Raises Alarm Over 'Hazardous Smog' In Pakistan

Commuters drive in heavy smog conditions in Lahore on November 21.
Commuters drive in heavy smog conditions in Lahore on November 21.

Poor air quality "poses a risk to the health of every person" in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, an international rights group has warned.

The London-based watchdog on November 22 called for "urgent action" for the more than 10 million residents of Lahore in a bid to mobilize its supporters around the world to campaign on their behalf due to the “hazardous smog” that is engulfing the eastern city.

The government’s "inadequate" response to the smog raises "significant human rights concerns," Amnesty International said in a statement.

Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, is considered one of the world’s most polluted cities.

During the so-called "smog season" running from October to February, "poor fuel quality, uncontrolled emissions and crop burning worsens the quality of the already unhealthy air in Punjab," Amnesty said.

Citing air quality monitors, the statement said the people of Lahore have "not had a single day of healthy air this year" and that the air quality deteriorated to "hazardous” levels in November.

On one out of every two days since the beginning of the month the air quality has been classified as "hazardous," it said.

Residents are advised to avoid all outdoor activity when that happens.

Authorities in Lahore and elsewhere in the province have asked parents not to send their children to school on November 22, after the Air Quality Index (AQI) skyrocketed to 598.

"Air becomes unhealthy when the AQI reaches 100. At 300 and above, the air is considered ‘hazardous,'" Amnesty said.

The issue is "so serious" that the international organization is calling on its members around the world to write to Pakistan’s authorities "to tell them to stop downplaying the crisis and take urgent action to protect people's health and lives," said Rimmel Mohydin, south Asia campaigner at Amnesty.

Prolonged or heavy exposure to hazardous air can result in serious health issues including asthma, lung damage, bronchial infections, and heart problems.

Besides Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and other Pakistani cities also show signs of worsening air quality.

More than 310,000 people die each year in Pakistan because of poor air quality, according to a 2015 report published by a British medical journal, The Lancet.

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