Nayha Bano Khan, Heer Cheema & Maida Tahir
In November ‘19, Lahore saw one of the worst cases of smog that the city has ever witnessed. The air, heavily engulfed in smoke particles, impaired visibility. While the gravity of smog extends to every individual and locality being affected, Smog is a topic of utmost concern to universities such as LUMS — they play a critical role in spreading awareness of smog and taking steps to combat the issue.
Dr. Waqar Zaidi, a Professor at LUMS and a member of the advocacy group ‘War on Smog’, states: “It is important to raise awareness of smog, because even students and faculty in LUMS do not fully understand what smog is.”
The ambiguity surrounding the term “smog” has resulted in a concerted effort to define exactly what smog is, as is evidenced by the recent talk: “Toxic Air: A Climate Emergency” held on 13th November in LUMS. The panelists began by debunking myths surrounding smog and clarifying that smog is not simply a mixture of dust or smoke, it constitutes something far worse: PM2.5 or particulate matter. Furthermore, Lahore is one of the highest ranked cities in the World AQI chart, but most regions in Pakistan fail to meet the standards of the World Health Organisation.
University campuses are intensely affected by smog, but they also offer much in the way of combating it. The LUMS Student Council, for example, took action on campus. The representatives tried to get classes cancelled for the day, conversed with the administration about the possibility of installing air purifiers, and acquired smog masks to be sold on campus at a price substantially less than the market price. They also obtained masks for the guards on campus. Furthermore, the environmental society on campus also contributed towards helping students cope with the crisis; they sold smog masks and hosted the aforementioned panel discussion.
There has been a ripple effect across campus; one comes across an increasing number of students wearing masks day by day, and the discourse around the issue of smog is growing. This discourse not only pertains to dealing with smog within the bounds of the campus, but also beyond it. For instance, investigation into the causes and nature of smog is emerging as a popular area of study.
However, there are limitations on what a university campus can do to combat the smog crisis. According to the Dean of the Office of Student Affairs, Dr. Adnan Khan, “we can put some solutions internally as to how to reduce the impact”, but “it has to be an industrial scale solution which requires a lag time.” After all, smog itself cannot be reduced by a university alone.
The magnitude of the crisis is massive and lies outside the control of just one university, however, students and administration should implement measures that can reduce the impact of smog. These campuses also play a crucial role in the broader discourse around smog and in establishing steps to combat it. In this way, LUMS and other universities are at the frontier of this fight
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