All Punjabi educational institutions were ordered by the Lahore High Court on Monday to close on Saturdays till the end of January to reduce smog, as the province’s air quality is still bad.
In ten districts, the temporary Punjabi administration had mandated face masks for citizens to wear when they left their homes the day before. In the past, it had also implemented a limited lockdown in response to the rising levels of air pollution.
These actions, meantime, did not appear to have much of an effect on the quality of the air, as Lahore and other regions continue to experience pollution.
As per the Air Quality Index, Lahore’s AQI for this morning at 11 a.m. was 293, falling into the unhealthy category.
In a written order issued today on a set of environment-related petitions, the LHC said a notification should be issued mentioning “at least closure of public schools, colleges, universities and all educational institutions for each Saturday till the end of January 2024”.
“Also, the government shall take measures for declaring two days in the week as work from home in the private sector in the province of Punjab,” it directed.
The court further noted that the Lahore Development Authority, Punjab Transport Company and Parks and Horticulture Authority had filed reports — on measures taken regarding smog in court and directed the departments to file further reports at the next hearing.
The court also highlighted that some industrial units that were initially sealed were found to be operational. “It is directed that not only reports regarding the prosecution of such industrial units shall be filed but also names of the relevant office of the Environment Protection Department who were required to keep these greenbelts as sealed.
“Departmental action shall be taken against these officers on the next hearing date,” the LHC added and adjourned the hearing till Nov 22.
Smog is a result of a combination of factors, including low wind speed, high humidity, temperature inversion, transboundary pollution from India and local emissions from vehicles, industries, brick kilns and crop burning.
It not only affects visibility and causes traffic accidents, but also poses serious health risks to residents, especially those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, children, elderly and pregnant women. Some of the common symptoms of smog exposure are coughing, wheezing, chest pain, eye irritation, headache, nausea and fatigue.
Experts have advised citizens to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the harmful effects of smog, such as wearing masks, using air purifiers, avoiding outdoor activities, especially during peak hours, and seeking medical attention if they experience any discomfort.