Over the past few years, cities have had an increase in air pollution leading to smog covering the skies. Cities in Asia have been experiencing smog skies the most and have had several warnings for people to avoid going outside to prevent inhaling the toxic air. Youth around the world have been leading protests around the world to get their governments to take action against pollution and regulate companies who have massively contributed to global climate change.
In Lahore, Pakistan, the smog air has increased causing many inhabitants to have trouble breathing and getting sick. Three local teenagers, Leila Alam, 13, Mishael Hyat, 17, and Laiba Siddiqi, 18 have filed a petition with the Lahore High Court accusing the government of Punjab of violating their health rights. The teenage girls claim that the government of Punjab has underreported the amount of pollution in Lahore’s air. They have specifically added the Punjab, Environmental Council, the Punjab Safe Cities Authority, the Environment Protection Department of Punjab and the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency in their petition to charge them. These agencies are in charge of monitoring Lahore’s, Punjab’s and Pakistan’s air quality, as well as, the quality of the natural environments. Alam’s father, Ahmad Rafay Alam, is representing the three teens as their lawyer in this case. The three teenagers met at climate change rallies in Lahore.
The three teenagers became part of the global climate strike that has been led by Greta Thunberg. Students have staged walkouts out of schools and leading demonstrations in public places to bring attention to the climate crisis.
Hyat is a competitive swimmer and partook in the South Asian Games in 2016 and she says that air pollution has negatively impacted the training for her sport. She says, “to swim better, we have to increase our lung capacity. So, I’m supposed to run and cycle every day, and that has been virtually impossible of late… And the more I exert myself in the current levels of pollution, the more susceptible I become to respiratory illness. It’s a terrible situation for athletes — children and old people in particular.”
Many inhabitants of Pakistan and India have noticed that air pollution has worsened over the years due to the fact that governments are not regulating companies, businesses, and individuals from polluting the air and land. From Fall to Winter, the farmers in the Punjab state in Pakistan and the states of Punjab and Haryana in India burn their stubble crop, which has led to the air pollution becoming seasonal. Since the global climate change has created warmer temperatures, air pollution becomes a thick, dense smog that stays in the air a lot longer than other substances. The thick smog is hazardous to anyone or anything that breathes it in.
Siddiqi commented on other areas in Pakistan that are also experiencing severe air pollution. She states that “Karachi is pretty densely polluted too, but I’ve developed a chronic cough since I came to Lahore- and I haven’t seen the worst of the smog season yet,”.
The three teens have provided evidence alongside their allegations. They have included a report from Lahore’s Children Hospital that showcases how dire the situation has become. The hospital has seen a massive increase in patients that have experienced discomfort or pain in their chest or other issues related to their cardiovascular complaints.
The petition says that the misreporting of the air pollution by the government has led to many people not being properly informed of when they should take caution. People are left not sure of when to wear a mask outdoors and when to take necessary measures to protect people who are suffering from illnesses related to the pollution inhalation.