Smart lockdown proves fruitless


Imposition of smart lockdown restrictions in 10 smog-affected districts of Punjab has proven fruitless as the air pollution level in Lahore and adjacent areas remains hazardous for the citizens’ health.

Environmentalists attribute the increasing smog to smoke emission from vehicles and dust emanating during construction work in Lahore. The local administration and traffic police appear unable to curb the activities causing pollution.

The data related to smog recorded by the monitoring section of the Punjab Environment Department shows that its intensity increased despite the imposition of smart lockdown in several cities.

“The Air Quality Index was recorded at 232 on Sunday in Shadman, while it was 228 the previous day. The AQI level at Punjab University rose to 226 from 217 in two days and at Town Hall from 229 to 274,” a senior official of the Punjab Environment Protection Department told The Express Tribune.

He said it appeared that the smart lockdown had not proven fruitful as thousands of unfit vehicles continued to ply on the roads despite instructions to the traffic police to act against their drivers.

“We have curbed air pollution caused by brick kilns but the city traffic police and administration have disappointed us. The construction work in housing societies and on city roads continued,” he lamented.

Read Lockdown relaxed for two days

The official said the Lahore High Court had expressed concern over the smog situation and advised a policy of work from home in offices one day every week. He said the citizens were also alarmed over the risk to public health caused by the smog.

He said the traffic police were taking more seriously the action against motorcyclists travelling without helmets than imposing the anti-smog restrictions.

The official stressed the urgency of the need for tough decisions by the government regarding the air quality and its impact on the citizens.

The gravity of the situation was also evident in hospitals that received a large number of patients of diseases caused by smog, including lung and breathing issues, eye infections, cough and skin ailments.

Medical officials advised the public to focus on precautionary measures and avoid venturing outdoors, especially crowded roads and markets.

“The world is telling us that we are living in the most polluted city but we remained complacent till the smog has begun threatening the citizens’ health,” said Environmentalist Professor Munawar Sabir while commenting on the situation.

Read more Face masks made mandatory in smog-hit Punjab

He said the people and the government were now concerned about the hazardous smog. He said the issue was being highlighted but the most important requirement was a government police and actions in this regard.

“The smart lockdown and closing schools is not a wise decision as the need is for a comprehensive strategy to curb smog in the coming years.

Smog and pollution should be treated as the top issue of the province and the government should engage all the departments concerned and universities to play their role to counter the smog, he added.

Meanwhile, the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) will distribute a first batch of electric bikes to its workforce on Monday to embrace eco-friendly commuting.

While all cities are affected, outdoor air pollution in Lahore stands at 15 to 17 times above the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Chairing a meeting convened to discuss the initiative on Sunday, PHA Director General Muhammad Tahir Wattoo emphasised the need to improve the air quality of Lahore and reviewed the measures taken to achieve the outcome.

With additional input from APP


Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2023.

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