November 2, 2023
ISLAMABAD – The Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) on Wednesday declared smog a “calamity” in the province while the provincial government declared an “emergency” in this regard.
The development came after the city on Tuesday continued to maintain its unfortunate position as the world’s most polluted with hazardous air quality.
In the early hours of Tuesday, Lahore recorded an alarming Air Quality Index (AQI) of 439, according to the global air quality monitoring platform, iqair.com. The situation remained grim throughout the day, with the AQI hovering at 325.
It is important to note that an AQI below 50 is considered safe for breathing.
Subsequently, the provincial government held a meeting today to review measures being taken to combat the phenomenon while the provincial PDMA also declared it a “calamity”.
The PDMA banned the burning of crop residue and instructions were also issued for cracking down on vehicles emitting smoke. It added that action would be taken against all factories causing environmental pollution with district administrations closely monitoring all industries and brick kilns.
The notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said deputy commissioners were delegated powers of the relief commissioner to take all necessary measures to control and mitigate smog.
A statement from the PDMA spokesperson said action would be taken against all factories causing environmental pollution and directed district administrations to keep a close watch on all kilns operating without the use of zig-zag technology.
“Strict action should be taken against those who violate government orders,” it said.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab caretaker cabinet had held an hours-long meeting on the issue.
A press release from the Punjab Directorate General Public Relations said environmental experts told participants that closing schools and shutting down transport services would not make a difference.
According to the handout, masks were made mandatory for students at all public and private schools for one month while a smog emergency was declared throughout the province.
The press release added that provincial ministers were directed to visit public and private schools from Thursday.
“Strict actions will be taken against those who do not dispose of dust, sand, and clay properly during the construction of houses,” the press release said, adding that interim Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi also issued instructions in this regard to officials and civic bodies in Lahore.
Orders were also issued to withdraw challans issued to farmers during smog season and they were advised to opt for other ways of disposing of crop residue apart from burning it.
“Action should continue against vehicles and factories emitting smoke. Every possible step should be taken to reduce smog in public buses. All departments concerned should work actively to prevent smog,” the chief minister said.
LHC orders declaration of smog emergency
Earlier in the day, LHC Justice Shahid Karim heard a set of petitions seeking measures against smog and directed that an emergency be imposed in the city.
The judge ordered that smoke-emitting factories that were sealed should not be de-sealed.
He also directed that university and college students should inform officials concerned about smoke-emitting factories in their areas. He added that the Lahore commissioner and other officials should visit educational institutions from Thursday (tomorrow) to spread awareness among students.
Expressing concern about the smog situation in the city, the judge said: “The government is responsible for the current state of smog.”
“The state of the city is in front of you. You are the guardians of the city. You can do everything,” he said.
“Earlier, smog used to occur in late November and December. Now, smog has begun [to appear] in October. An immediate smog emergency should be imposed,” Justice Karim observed.