Physical environment is considered an area that is tangible and supports, influences, and develops life. It is a part of human environment that includes physical factors (i.e. air, water and land). The component wise detail is as under;
TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION
Variations in temperature and precipitation are adversely influencing land resources such as water, farming systems, beach front areas, freshwater territories, vegetation, and topographical features . Punjab, province lies on the edge of the monsoon climate (31.1704° N, 72.7097° E). The temperature is by and large sweltering, with checked varieties amongst summer and winter. In June the average temperature achieves the mid-89s F (mid-30s C), whereas in January the average temperature is in the mid-49s F. The temperatures are higher in southern Punjab (i.e. Bahawalpur, Lodhran, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur) where yearly average temperature exceed above 28C. The temperature becomes cooler in northern side (i.e. Chakwal, Rawalpindi and Attock) where yearly average drops down around 14C. Similarly, northern region of Punjab receives more rainfall as compared to southern while humidity decreases from north to south. These figures clearly indicate that both Mean annual maximum temperature and rainfall have highest values in the north and lowest in the Middle and Southern region.
Air pollution in Punjab is amongst the most severe in the world, and it significantly damages human health and the economy. Air pollution, particularly in large urban centers, damages the populations’ health and quality of life, and contributes to environmental degradation . From 2007 to 2011, the reported levels of Particulate Matter (PM), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), and Lead (Pb) were many times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines . The number of premature deaths and illnesses caused by air pollution exceeds most other high profile causes of public health problems that receive significantly more attention in Punjab, including road accidents . According to a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate, in 2015, almost 60,000 Pakistanis died from the high level of fine particles in the air, one of the world’s highest death tolls from air pollution. The most important economic costs associated with air pollution correspond to impacts on human health. Cement, fertilizer, sugar units, and power plants are considered to be the most air polluting industries of Pakistan. Transportation is also main culprit for air and noise pollution. Depending on the level, quality and exposure of noise duration, noise pollution may adversely affect the human health. Currently the situation is getting alarming with increase in traffic density on city roads. Moreover, trans-boundary effects are worsening air pollution in Punjab, posing a threat to human health and environment. Concentrations of NO2 and P.M2.5 of overall Punjab province is presented below;
Pakistan is among the world’s 36 most water-stressed countries, with its agricultural, domestic, and industry sectors scoring high on the World Resource Institute’s water stress index. Per capita annual water availability has dropped, fundamentally because of population growth, from 5,600 cubic meters in 1947 to the current level of 1,017 cubic meters, and is projected to decline further under the current infrastructure and institutional condition. Demand for water is on the rise, projected to reach 274 million acre-feet (MAF) by 2025, while supply is expected to remain stagnant at 191 MAF, resulting in a demand-supply gap of approximately 83 MAF .
Almost four-fifths (79%) of the Punjab province has access to fresh groundwater. Some 9.78 million acres are underlain with groundwater of less than 1000 mg/l TDS, 3 million acres with salinity ranging from 1000 to 3000 mg/l TDS and 3.26 million acres with salinity more than 3000 mg/l TDS. Saline waters are mostly found in the central Doab areas. The exponential increase in groundwater usage over the past few decades in the Punjab province in Pakistan is responsible for the significant groundwater table decline in many parts of the province, leading to an urgent need for policy measures to better manage groundwater use. Average depth to ground water table in Punjab for the year 2016, is presented in Figure 10. The figure shows some serious concerns as the depth to ground water table as gone down to more than 40 feet in Lahore, Okara, Chinot, Pakpattan, Vehari, Khanewal, Lodhran, Multan, Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar.
Arsenic is a major concern after high total dissolved solids (TDS) in the groundwater occurrences in the Punjab Districts. Although the results of the UNICEF study for the PHED have been widely considered, a definitive explanation for all the occurrences is yet to be accepted. The occurrence of arsenic in ground water sources is linked with human activities and doesn’t represent the natural occurrence. Dr Islam-ul-Haque (2015) demonstrates the use of arsenic based pesticides as the source of significant arsenic levels in groundwater. In addition, the use of high levels of phosphate fertilizer can also facilitate the mobilization of naturally occurring arsenic from the alluvial outwash sediments in the Indus Basin. Among water contaminants, Arsenic (As) is one of the hazardous chemicals deteriorating the drinking water quality and impairing the public health. More than 150 million people are affected worldwide by arsenic contamination in 70 countries, out of which 50 million people in Bangladesh and 30 million people in India are at risk. However according to a recent study by Podgorski et al., (2017) only in Lahore and Hyderabad of Pakistan some 50-60 million people are at risk due to presence of arsenic in ground water, far more than previously thought. Groundwater samples from Khushab, Mianwali, Jhelum, Gujrat and Sargodha districts have shown concentrations of arsenic that are well above the Punjab Environmental Quality Standards for drinking water, 0.05 mg/l (50ppb). See Figure 12 for spatial distribution of TDS across the Punjab Districts.
Fluoride occurs naturally in soil, water, plants, animals and humans in trace quantities. It is an essential element for human health and both its deficiency and overexposure can lead to different severities like bone deformities and dental fluorosis. In Punjab, a large variation in fluoride concentration has been observed in drinking water. High concentrations of fluoride that are observed in various studies are primarily due to leaching from fluoride-bearing minerals, industrial wastes, agricultural fertilizers and combustion of coal which release fluoride into the air later reaches the soil through precipitation. According to Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQs) for drinking water, the standard value for Flouride (F) is less than 1.5 mg/l. Groundwater with high fluoride content is found in the Salt Range, Lahore, Sargodha, Khushab, Mianwali, Bhakkar and also in the Bahawalpur districts.
Nitrate is a problem in drinking water due to its harmful biological effects. High concentrations can cause methemoglobinemia, and have been cited as a risk factor in developing gastric an intestinal cancer. Many local sources of potential nitrate contamination of groundwater are sites used for disposal of human and animal sewage; fertilizers; septic tanks; industrial wastes related to food processing; and sites where handling and accidental spills of nitrogenous materials may accumulate. According to Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQs) for drinking water, the standard value for Nitrate (NO3) is 50 mg/l. The spatial analysis of water quality data showed that approximated 11.5 million population has been at risk due to higher levels of Nitrate in ground water, concentrated in three districts i.e. Chakwal, Attock and Khushab.
Soil pollution is another form of land pollution where the upper layer is damaged due to overuse of chemical fertilizers and other pest control measures. It is quite evident that effect of this kind of land pollution can lead to the loss of ecosystem. Although soil resources in Punjab province are immense, good quality soil that forms prime agricultural land are limited. The two contribution in soil types of Punjab are mainly loamy and clayey soil extended at eastern side of Punjab, rolling to hilly sandy soils of Aeolian deserts in south eastern and western side of Punjab, loamy and some sandy soils in north eastern side and along the riverside in Punjab as shown below. The extent of such soils can be increased only a little by improving a part of relatively poorer quality soil, though this would be at formidable cost. Ultimately, Punjab has to rely on the existing soil resources. The need of time is to protect prime agricultural land from misuse and minimize its degradation or loss. Major problems related to soil conservation are; air and water erosion, water logging and salinity, flooding and ponding, livestock grazing pressure, soil pans, soil nutrient degradation and non-agricultural use of prime agriculture land.
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
With population of 110 million people, urban population in Punjab is around 31.1% which is residing in 190 cities of different scales generating approximately 15000 tons/day. There are thousands of waste heaps lying in the urban and rural landscape of Punjab destroying its beauty and the future of public. There are risks of diseases, aesthetic nuisance as well as accumulation of pollutants in to the food chain. Waste management can no longer be neglected and it requires long term solution that caters all environmental constraints. In medium term, thousands of waste heaps should be reduced to few hundred by collecting waste in a proper manner and transporting it to dedicated dump sites. In the longer term, all the waste should be directed to few dozen technically designed and maintained landfill sites. This approach needs to be employed to safeguard the future. Government of Punjab has established Waste Management Companies (WMCs) in 7 large cities (Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Rawalpindi and Sialkot) of the Punjab to serve in the Urban Areas. Solid Waste Management services delivery in these cities have considerably improved over the last few years. However, small and medium sized cities are still performing at 40-60% efficiency due to archaic model of SWM and deficiency of professionals SWM engineers to properly plan and manage the SWM on modern grounds. Furthermore, Collection of solid waste is usually confined to the city centers and high-income neighborhoods, and even there the service is usually irregular. To cater this problem, The Government of Punjab is launching ‘Saaf Dehat Program’ to clean the rural areas and transport the waste to disposal sites. The existing dumpsites and proposed regional landfill sites in Punjab is presented below.
- Malla, G. 2009. Climate change and its impact on Nepalese agriculture. Journal of agriculture and environment. 9: 62-71
- Pakistan Journal of Metrology; Salma, S., S. Rehman, M. A. Shah; Rainfall trends in different climate zones of Pakistan, Vol. 9, Issue 17: Jul 2012
- Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2017, Verisk Maplecroft
- United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
- Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, Punjab Intermediate Cities Improvement Investment Program- ADB, 2015
- Sánchez-Triana, et al. 2014. Cleaning Pakistan’s Air: Policy Options to Address the Cost of Outdoor Air Pollution. Washington, DC, World Bank.
- Gurjar, B. R. et al. 2008. Evaluation of Emissions and Air Quality in Megacities. Atmospheric Environment. 42:1593–606.
- http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention /road_safety_status/ country_profiles/pakistan.pdf.
- International Monitory Fund, 2015: issues in managing water challenges and policy instruments: regional perspectives and case studies.
- Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. 2016. Pakistan Social And Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) 2014-15. Government of Pakistan. Statistics Division. Islamabad
- Tahir, M. A. etal. 2011. Technical Assessment Survey Report of Water Supply Schemes of Punjab. Part 1. Punjab Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR), Islamabad.
- Imran, S. etal. 2016. Water Quality Status of Major Cities of Pakistan 2015-16. Punjab Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR), Islamabad.
- Daud, M. K., et al. 2017. Drinking Water Quality Status and Contamination in Pakistan. BioMed Research International. pp. 6
- Podgorski, J.E., Eqani, S.A.M.A.S, Khanam, T., Ullah, R., Shen, H., Berg, M., Extensive arsenic contamination in high-pH unconfined aquifers in the Indus Valley, Science Advances 3(8), 2017.
- Islam-ul-Haque, 2015. Sustained Applications of Pesticides and Fertilizers in Sugarcane, Cotton and Wheat Cultivated Areas Causes Ground Water Arsenic Contamination - District Rahim Yar March 4, 2015 Khan, Pakistan. International Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Analysis
- UNICEF-PHED 2014