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Contribution of Road Transport to Pakistan’s Air Pollution in the Urban Environment

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Bajwa, Abdullah 
Sheikh, Hassan Aftab 


The urban areas of Pakistan exhibit some of the world’s highest levels of air pollution, primarily due to sub-2.5 μm particulate emissions. This issue significantly impairs both the country’s economy and the quality of life of its residents. Road transport is a significant contributor to anthropogenic air pollution but there are discrepancies about the extent of its share. Source apportionment and sectoral inventory studies attribute anywhere between 5 and >80% of the total air pollution to vehicular sources. This uncertainty propagates into the transport policy interventions that are informed by such studies and can thus hinder the achievement of desired pollution mitigation targets. In an effort to reconcile such discrepancies and guide future studies and policy-making efforts, this paper critically reviews source apportionment studies conducted in the urban centres of Pakistan over the past two decades. The strengths and weaknesses of different approaches are compared, and results from the studies are discussed based on the emissions profile of Pakistan’s automotive fleet that emerges. Inconsistencies in the reporting of pollutant concentrations and interpreting their impacts without accounting for the relative disease burden of different pollutant species are found to be the major reasons for the large variations in the reported sectoral shares. At the end, a framework for regular air pollution monitoring and source tracking is proposed in which high-fidelity receptor-based studies inform lower-fidelity but economical sectoral inventory assessments.



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