In the News

November 25, 2021

Pakistan Orders Monday Closure of Schools and Offices in Lahore to Cut Smog

According to the AQLI, the average resident of Lahore loses 5.3 years of their life.
Shah Meer Baloch

Pakistan has ordered private offices and schools to remain closed on Mondays in Lahore in the hope that a three-day weekend will help reduce toxic levels of smog in the country’s second-largest city.

The directive, issued by Punjab relief commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar, aimed to act “as a preventive and speedy remedy” during the winter smog season and will last until 15 January.

Lahore was temporarily declared the most polluted city in the world by an air quality monitor earlier on Wednesday, as residents complain of shortness of breath, stinging eyes and nausea from thick, acrid pollution.

Last week, the air quality index in the city of about 12 million people was ranked at 348, much above the hazardous level of 300, according to IQAir, the Swiss technology company that operates the AirVisual monitoring platform. Since then, Lahore has been overtaken by Delhi, India, which ranked at 422. The number is a calculation based on the level of several pollutants in the air.

Pakistan has witnessed the worst air pollution in recent years from Karachi to Lahore, as a mixture of low-grade diesel fumes, smoke from seasonal crop burn off, and colder winter temperatures coalesce into stagnant clouds of smog.

On average, Pakistanis are estimated to lose two years of their life due to air pollution. But Lahore suffers the worst, with the average resident losing 5.3 years of their lives, claims the report on air quality life index , produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

The information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, has blamed previous authorities for smog in Lahore. “We see Lahore engulfed by fog every winter due to the past rulers of the city, who had cut trees for erecting a jungle of concrete there which badly affected the green cover of Lahore and its surroundings,” he said on Saturday.

Rimmel Mohydin, a south Asia analyst at Amnesty International, said the smog crisis was a human rights issue, given that it impedes the right to health. “People should not be endangered by the air they breathe. If the expertise is available, if the consequences are dire, if the evidence of the damage is mounting, then the government must not waste time initiating smog protection protocol.”

Malik Amin Aslam, climate change adviser to the prime minister, Imran Khan, said the government was working on the recommendations of the smog action committee. “We are doing everything possible,” he said.

Aslam said that without regional efforts between India and Pakistan the issue of the smog cannot be tackled, as the crops are burned off on the other side of the border. “We have put this request for a dialogue between regional countries during Cop26 (climate summit). Hopefully, it will take place.”

However, Rafay Alam, a lawyer and environmental activist said that while there was a need for dialogue with India and regional countries, the smog cannot be blamed on Pakistan’s neighbours.

“There is no overnight solution to the problem. The government has to improve fuel quality and shift to renewable energy, and provide pollution control devices for the industries..”

Continue Reading at The Guardian…