LAHORE: The Punjab Environment Department (EPD) on Tuesday requested the federal government to approach Indian authorities on the issue of the burning of crop stubble by farmers in Indian Punjab, which according to the department, caused smog in different cities of the province, including Lahore.

The department predicts thickening of smog much beyond the human tolerance level in the next 15 days.

“We expect thickening of smog in the next 15 days because of the increasing smoke from the burning stubble mainly in Indian Punjab. Crop stubble is also being burnt in our cities but the present and the expected level of burning on the Indian side is alarming,” said an EPD official on Tuesday.

He said in view of the predicted alarming situation, which Pakistani Punjab witnessed last year, the department had written a letter to the Ministry of Climate Change requesting it to take up the matter of crop stubble burning with India authorities through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We can do this on the pattern of Asean countries which have signed an agreement to tackle smog caused by forest burning in its member countries,” the official said.

At present smog in Lahore remains thick in morning. Though it continues to persist throughout the day, in evening smog in the city causes eye and throat irritation.

According to EPD and the Met department, people in Lahore are these days facing the same level of smog they had experienced last year due to burning of used tyres by nearly 350 iron and steel-rerolling mills, large scale construction of roads, underpasses and the metro train, and mainly crop stubble burning in Indian Punjab.

Official sources, however, claimed that at present smog in the city was 50 per cent less than its recorded level during this season last year. But the situation was going to worsen in the coming days because of dry weather. “Rain is not expected in next 15 days, so smog is going to stay,” an official said.

An official said that Suparco, the national space agency of Pakistan, had through its satellite caught over 100,000 burning spots in Indian Punjab last year. The actual happening was much intensive because the satellite focuses Punjab just for five minutes thrice a day. The figure recorded on Wednesday was 5,000 and was bound to rise, he said.

On its part the department has sealed 100 of the 350 steel factories and ordered every contractor in Lahore to sprinkle water on dirt or cover it with plastic sheets to reduce the level of locally generated pollution.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2017

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