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Reuters |

Two weeks of thick toxic smog has disrupted normal life in parts of Pakistan, with flights canceled, road accidents surging and nearly 15,000 people being hospitalized in and around Lahore, officials said on Friday.

Read more: Smog: “Bharti Sazish” or Environmental Negligence?

The thick blanket of grey air and pollutants has enveloped the eastern Pakistani city and several other urban areas for nearly two weeks, bringing visibility to zero most of the day. The Pakistani crisis is part of a wider smog emergency that has hit neighboring India, forcing authorities in New Delhi on Friday to plan to spray water over the city.

Meteorologists say the pollution surge was triggered by vehicle exhaust fumes, dust and illegal burning of crops. Limited visibility has caused over 250 road accidents, killing 14 people and injuring more than 400, said Jam Sajjad Hussain, a government rescue service official.

The solution to smog lies in grassroots contributions. Tree planting initiatives, reducing carbon emissions, and conserving natural resources could all play a vital role in saving the world right now.

A spokesman for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, Kamran Malik, said dozens of flights were delayed, canceled or diverted over the last week or so. And more than 15,000 smog-affected patients were admitted to hospitals with acute respiratory infections, allergies and other pollution-related ailments in the Lahore area, said Faisal Zahoor, director general of health for Punjab province.

Levels of Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) have been touching 500mg per cubic meter in the last several days in parts of Pakistan where the normal upper limit is 150mg, said environment ministry spokesman Naseem-ur-Rehman Shah.

The particles, if inhaled deep into the lungs, can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, severe allergies and respiratory diseases. Authorities have advised people in the smog hit areas to avoid unnecessary travel, stay indoors as much possible and keep children away from the toxic air.

Read more: Sindh Environmental Protection Agency approves cutting down on 800 mangrove trees

Air pollution in Pakistan has been reported to have been fatal for 60,000 people till date and Pakistan were ranked one of the deadliest places in the world to live in terms of air pollutants. This situation has not yet been able to ring alarm bells in legislative bodies.

The Pakistani crisis is part of a wider smog emergency that has hit neighbouring India, forcing authorities in New Delhi on Friday to plan to spray water over the city.

A report claims that almost 22 percent of premature deaths in Pakistan are attributable to pollution. These amount to 300,000 deaths annually, more than the deaths caused by road accidents (Smog is such a paradoxical killer: People are dying in road accidents because of smog, trying to escape respiratory illnesses). 

Like all environmental issues, the solution to smog lies in grassroots contributions. Tree planting initiatives, reducing carbon emissions, recycling domestic waste, minimizing fires and conserving natural resources could all play a vital role in saving the world right now.

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