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Islamabad: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has ordered the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of Punjab’s various districts to register cases against and impose fine (PKR 200,000 or Dh3,327) on farmers if they are found burning stubble.

The practice is common in both the Indian and the Pakistani Punjab where farmers burn remains of their crops (stubble) on thousands of hectares of land to prepare their farms for upcoming Rabi or winter crops (wheat, gram and barley). The smoke produced thus causes worst smoggy conditions both in the Western (Pakistani) and the Eastern (Indian) Punjab.

The LHC has given the directions to control the rising smog issue in the province that raises its ugly head every year just before the fall and lasts for two to three months.

The court also ordered taking into possession such farmers’ lands in case they violated the court directions.

Justice Shahid Karim passed the orders while hearing petitions filed by concerned citizens who were seeking directions to the provincial government for taking steps to control smog.

Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of Gujranwala, Kasur, Okara and Hafizabad districts appeared on being summoned by the court.

Hearing petitions relating to smog and other environmental issues, Justice Shahid Karim expressed displeasure with the DCs for their failure to check stubble burning in Punjab.

The CEOs of districts had appeared as directions were issued to them on the last hearing following incidents of stubble burning in their districts.

The judge reprimanded the officers for their failure to control stubble burning and directed a law officer to inform the Punjab chief secretary about the performance of his deputy commissioners.

During the proceedings, the court ordered to place a report about incidents of stubble burning in the province before the chief secretary Punjab for necessary action.

DCs directed to submit report on stubble burning in their areas

The judge also directed to apprise the chief secretary about the performance of the administration, shown in the report.

Besides, the DCs were directed to take necessary measures to control the smog in their respective districts.

The DCs apprised the court that cases were registered against the farmers over stubble burning.

They also submitted that the district administrations were taking all measures to control the smog.

Last year, too, the same court had directed the then chief minister Usman Buzdar to take pre-emptive measures against smog.

The chief minister was also directed to convene a meeting of the Environment Protection Council (EPC) at the earliest to discuss the smog situation in the provincial metropolis and adjoining areas.

“It is of utmost importance that the meeting of the Council be convened at the earliest by the chief minister, Punjab to deliberate upon the calamity of smog and to issue direction for effectively dealing with the situation on an urgent basis,” Justice Shahid Karim had said in his written order.

An annual challenge

Every year, life in Punjab almost comes to a halt as thick and ominous layer of fog and smog envelops the entire province disturbing normal life, business schooling and office work, etc.

Every year, the district administrations of various districts announce smog would not recur from the coming year but it returns with more intensity.

Young children and elderly people are the worst-affected age group as they suffer from throat infections and sore eyes.