In an unprecedented move, the caretaker government of Punjab took a groundbreaking step to tackle the hazardous smog levels blanketing Lahore by resorting to artificial rain in a bid to alleviate the severity of the air pollution.
Using aircraft equipped with cloud seeding technology, the government targeted ten specific areas within Lahore, a city that has frequently ranked among the worst globally in terms of air quality. The initiative was heralded by Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, who acknowledged the support received from the United Arab Emirates for this unique intervention.
Expressing gratitude, Naqvi hailed this effort as a pivotal moment in Lahore’s history, leveraging social media to extend his appreciation to the UAE government for their assistance in prioritizing environmental concerns without imposing undue pressure on the provincial budget.
Detailing the operation, Naqvi revealed that a specialized team, accompanied by two aircraft, arrived nearly two weeks earlier and utilized 48 flares to induce artificial rainfall. The outcomes of this unconventional strategy were anticipated to be assessed by the evening, marking the first attempt at employing artificial rain to mitigate smog-related issues in the city.
Highlighting collaborative efforts, Naqvi also acknowledged the support and cooperation extended by the federal government, emphasizing the vigilance of local authorities like the Water and Sanitation Agency and Lahore Development Authority, both placed on high alert to address the smog crisis.
Naqvi underscored the expectation that this innovative intervention would positively impact Lahore’s Air Quality Index, expressing a willingness to share this knowledge and technique with other provinces after mastering the process.
The use of cloud seeding, commonly known as artificial rain or blue-skying, involves the introduction of common salts into clouds to stimulate condensation and induce rain. This technique, already utilized in numerous countries, including the United States, China, and India, has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing air pollution by promoting rainfall, even in modest quantities.
Pakistan has grappled with escalating air pollution in recent years, exacerbated by a mix of factors including low-grade diesel emissions, seasonal crop burning, and adverse winter conditions leading to the formation of stubborn smog clouds. Lahore, in particular, has borne the brunt of this toxic smog, impacting over 11 million residents during the winter months.
Measuring hazardous levels, PM2.5 pollutants were recorded at more than 66 times the World Health Organization’s danger limits in Lahore on the day of the artificial rain intervention, underlining the severity of the health risks posed by such high pollution levels. Chronic exposure to such pollutants can result in severe health issues, including strokes, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory ailments, as per WHO assessments.
Despite the government’s previous attempts, including measures like road water spraying and periodic closures of schools and markets, the reduction in air pollution has remained elusive. Acknowledging the need for a more sustained and strategic approach, Naqvi highlighted the necessity for comprehensive studies to devise a long-term plan to combat the persistent smog crisis in Lahore and beyond.