Smog envelops the area of Lahore on November 22, 2021. People of Lahore and adjacent area are suffering from respiratory problems because of poor air quality related to thick smog hanging over the region. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Schools and private workplaces will remain shut three days a week in Lahore as the city battles the winter smog.

The Punjab government has announced the closure of private offices and educational institutions in Lahore on Mondays in addition to Saturday and Sunday from November 27 till January 15, 2022, in an attempt to curb the city’s smog problem.

Heavy fines
Last week, the Lahore High Court ordered the Punjab government to take urgent measures to tackle smog and set up a smog cell at the offices of Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to monitor the situation. Following the court order, the authorities have imposed starting from Rs2,000 to Rs100,000 on different violators.
• Polluting and smoke emitting vehicle: Rs2,000 fine
• Burning of crop residue and municipal waste: Rs50,000
• Brick kilns not on zig-zag methodology or emitting black smoke: Rs50,000 to 100,000
• Industrial units functioning without emission control devices: Rs50,000 to 100,000

The private offices have been asked to reduce staff by allowing 50 per cent of employees to work from home. The directive, issued by Punjab Relief Commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar, aims to act “as a preventive and speedy remedy” to ensure public safety and save lives during the smog season.

Lahore dealing with chronic smog

The three-day weekend measure was announced after Lahore continually topped the list of world cities with the most polluted air. The air quality levels (AQI) in the city had remained hazardous and unhealthy for the whole month of November, reaching as high as 341, according to the IQ Air monitoring platform. AQI values below 100 are considered satisfactory and anything above 100 is unhealthy.

How authorities are tackling smog issue

Lahore faces extremely bad air in winter due to crop stubble burning, emissions from transport, coal-fired plants and other industrial emissions.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has announced several measures to reduce traffic, industrial and other emissions, eliminate waste burning, and implement stringent dust control measures especially. The authorities have also accelerated the procurement of electric buses.

All industrial units have been directed to install scrubbers for emission control and cameras for monitoring by December 4 for real-time industrial emission monitoring. To reduce urban pollution from road traffic, petroleum products manufacturers have been to shift to cleaner Euro-5 fuel. The Punjab government has also informed its departments to reduce the use of official cars by 50 per cent till January 15, 2022.

Smog - a public health crisis

Smog, a mix of smoke and fog, is a specific type of air pollution. It reduces visibility and can cause serious health problems starting from irritation to human eyes, nose and lungs.

Air pollution is now one of the biggest health and environmental threats, which kills at least 7 million people prematurely each year, according to World Health Organization (WHO).