University of Lahore launches major climate initiative with 8 partner universities to tackle air pollution

The University of Lahore (UOL) has launched a landmark climate action initiative, the Lahore Academic Alliance for Climate Action (LAACA), in collaboration with eight prominent universities.

This significant project, led by Prof. Dr. Rabia Akhtar, Director of the Center for Security, Strategy, and Policy Research (CSSPR) at the University of Lahore, and Dr. Aazir Khan, Director of the Integrated Engineering Centre of Excellence (IECE) at UOL, aims to combat climate change and promote environmental sustainability through data-driven interventions and community engagement.

The participating universities include:

  • University of the Punjab (PU)
  • Government College University (GCU)
  • University of Management and Technology (UMT)
  • Forman Christian College University (FCCU)
  • Beaconhouse National University (BNU)
  • University of Central Punjab (UCP)
  • University of South Asia
  • Kinnaird College for Women University

Air Quality Monitors to be installed at universities

A key component of this initiative is the development of air quality monitors, named the UOL Weather and Air Quality Integrated Apparatus (WAQIA), by IECE.

UOL is providing these monitors free of cost to the eight partner universities, with each institution receiving two outdoor units. These monitors will help collect and analyze pollution data, enabling the universities to develop effective strategies to improve air quality on their campuses. The project also emphasizes sustainability practices through community engagement and the appointment of student ambassadors.

University of Lahore (UOL) climate action initiative
Prof. Dr. Rabia Akhtar, Director of the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research (CSSPR) at the University of Lahore (UOL), and Dr. Aazir Khan, Director of Integrated Engineering Centre of Excellence (IECE) at UOL, have spearheaded the landmark climate action initiative. (Image Credit: UOL)

The launch event featured a presentation by Dr. Aazir Khan, followed by a Q&A session and discussions on the project’s objectives and implementation strategies.

Representatives from the partner universities who attended the launch of the climate initiative on June 12, 2024, included Dr. Ahmad Ali Gul, Assistant Professor and Director, Center for Disaster Management, University of Management and Technology (UMT); Dr. Sajid Ahmed Rashid, Dean, Faculty of GeoSciences, and Dr. Amjad Abbas Magsi, President, Punjab University Academic Staff Association PU-ASA, both from Punjab University; Dr. Shazia Ilyas, Assistant Professor, Department Of Environmental Sciences, Forman Christian College University (FCCU); Muhammad Umar Hayat, Sustainable Development Study Centre, Government College University (GCU); Dr. Khalid Manzoor Butt, Dean, Social Sciences at UCP; Mian Imran Masood, Vice Chancellor of University of South Asia; Imrana Tiwana, Head of the Initiative for Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability, ORIP, Beaconhouse National University (BNU); and Zainab Dar, Lecturer, Political Science Department at Kinnaird College for Women University.

Lahore’s universities unite to tackle Air Quality challenges

Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, consistently ranks among the world’s most polluted with air quality levels often plunging to hazardous levels, particularly evident during the winter months when thick smog blankets the city.

The Lahore Academic Alliance for Climate Action (LAACA) signifies a crucial step forward in addressing Lahore’s pressing air pollution issues, particularly the city’s severe smog problem. This smog — a combination of smoke and fog — occurs when pollution particles mix with cold, moist air and hang close to the ground, reducing visibility and posing significant health risks to residents, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

An Air Quality Index (AQI) above 151 is unhealthy, while levels above 301 are hazardous for breathing. Lahore frequently surpasses these thresholds, regularly recording PM2.5 concentrations far exceeding safe limits.

U.S. air quality index. (Image Credit: IQAir)
U.S. air quality index. (Image Credit: IQAir)

A recent study by the University of Central Punjab, titled “Air Pollution Monitoring of PM2.5 in Lahore, Pakistan during Smog,” highlighted the severity of this public health crisis. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as PM2.5, pose the greatest health risk.

The study found that Lahore experiences extremely elevated PM2.5 levels almost daily, with dangerous peaks sometimes exceeding 300 µg/m³. The highest recorded concentration was 420 µg/m³ on January 10, 2023, and the lowest was 116 µg/m³ on November 25, 2022, vastly surpassing the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 15 µg/m³.

By bringing together the expertise and resources of the University of Lahore and eight prominent partner universities, the LAACA initiative aims to implement data-driven interventions to improve air quality across the city. Additionally, the project promotes community engagement and sustainability practices to help address an urgent local issue and set a precedent for academic institutions to lead in environmental stewardship and climate action.

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