Lahore’s Air Pollution and Development in Real Estate sector
Written by Maham, E 2
Lahore is the 2nd largest city of Pakistan and is home to about 12 million people. Being one of the wealthiest cities in Pakistan, Lahore has increased rapidly in population, area and development in last few decades. Increase in population demands more land for living and to fulfill this need Lahore has spread rapidly in last three decades by consuming all the nearby farmland and converting them into modern residential housing societies, resulting in increase in real estate investment in city. This rapid urbanization has bought swift development to the city making it Pakistan’s one of the most progressive and socially liberal city. But as everything comes with its pros and cons, Lahore’s rapid urbanization and development came with different social and environmental issues – the most recent and common now-a-days is “Lahore’s Air Pollution”.
Air Pollution in Lahore:
Lahore’s problem of air pollution is not new. It was reported in early 2000’s when some researchers reported an increase in concentration of PM2.5 in city’s ambient air. At that time, city was developing at a rapid rate and so its air quality was compromised to support the developmental sector. Problem worsen and came to light when residents noticed a strange yellowish haze -photochemical smog- in the city in November, 2017. By that time, no real time data of PM2.5 was published by Government of Pakistan. US state department began PM2.5 monitoring in Pakistan’s major cities including Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Faisalabad in 2019. Since then, Lahore is regularly being reported among top polluted major global cities of “IQAir Air Visuals Live Pollution Ranking”.
Causes of Air Pollution in Lahore:
Though city’s air quality is not considered healthy throughout the year but it worsens in the winters from the months of October to February when the pollution and particulate matters in the city get trap in air and fog due to temperature inversion.
Researches are still going on to find the prime contributor of Lahore’s pollution but some of the major causes are:
- Vehicular Emissions
- Brick Kilns
- Crop Burning
- Heavy Traffic
- Over Construction
- Road Structure
- Unplanned urbanization
- Lack of Environmental Impact and Risk Assessment
- The most recent study has shown “Excessive Barbeque” in winters a prime source of carbon black in air
Role of Real Estate Investment in Air Pollution:
Real estate doesn’t have a direct impact on city’s air pollution but has indirectly supported it by consuming the green spaces to accommodate rapidly growing population. Just four decades back, Lahore was surrounded by green farmlands and forests that supported city’s fresh and clean air. Surrounding farmlands were bought and converted into residential societies to accommodate the rapid increasing population. Forest trees were cut down to fulfil wood demand in city resulting in rapid deforestation, a major example of which is “Chhanga Manga Forest” that was once considered as the largest man-made forest in the world. Moreover, even inside the main Lahore city green cover has rapidly decreased in past few years. According to spatial data, decrease in Lahore’s green cover in year 2010-2017 was more than the depletion in two previous decades of 1990-2010.
Compromising environmental health over development is common in developing countries but this often backfires in the form of serious health issues, reduction in city/country’s aesthetic value, and bad reputation among international community etc. That’s why “Sustainable Development” is important to have a balance between economy and environment. This can be done by promoting green development of real estate by increasing environmental awareness and by promoting the use of eco-friendly and economical technologies.
Government of Pakistan has initiated several projects to mitigate Lahore’s air pollution – the most famous of which is “Miyawaki Forest”. Gradual reconstruction of roads and infrastructure in city to ensure a smooth and controlled traffic flow can also considered as a positive step. Eco-friendly projects like “Metro Bus”, “Orange Line Train” and “Speedo Bus Service” to promote use of public transport is also a progressive step. Government is also promoting use of high-octane number fuel to reduce vehicular emissions.