By Abid Hussain
When Nariman Qureshi returned to her home in Lahore after a week-long work trip in early November, she discovered her five-year-old daughter Anya had spent two nights in intensive care.
The reason was her asthma, which had flared up severely. For Qureshi, it was the cost she had to pay for living in a city whose air quality is among the worst in the world, and which has spent last week either on top, or among the top five worst cities in the world to breathe in.
Image caption: Nariman Qureshi’s daughter Anya is one of the victims of Lahore’s pollution problem, Image copyright COURTESY: NARIMAN QURESHI
“I can’t say for sure that we found out about Anya’s asthmatic condition due to the worsening air pollution, or that the smog itself caused it, but what I do know is that since the 2017 smog season, she’s been on asthma medication. I wonder if we were elsewhere, maybe that wouldn’t have been the case,” Qureshi says.
Delhi may have been hitting the headlines this week, but by the evening of 6 November, Lahore had taken the title of the world’s most unbreathable city – with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 551, forcing the provincial government to announce closure of all schools in the province on Thursday.
In fact, it was the third time in seven days it had topped the table with numbers which, according to America’s Environment Protection Agency classification, fall into the “hazardous” category, and defined as “emergency conditions” likely to affect everyone in the area.
However despite Pakistan being ranked second-worst for air quality in the world back in 2018, attempts by campaigners to force the government’s hand and take some much-needed action have not met with much success.
But things could take a turn for the better for Qureshi, her daughter and rest of the nearly 12 million people living in Pakistan’s second-largest city if three teenagers achieve what they have set out to do.