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LAHORE: The Punjab government on Tuesday submitted to the Lahore High Court (LHC) an ‘emergency health plan’ to be implemented across the province as per the requirement if the air quality index (AQI) crossed international standards particularly due to smog.

The plan carried imposition of medical emergency with the suspension of all outdoor activities and evacuation of the people to the safe places as far as practicable if the AQI crossed the figure of 500. All educational institutions and parks would be closed down in addition to a general advice to wear masks when outdoor if index recorded 401 to 500.

Environment Secretary Saif Anjum accompanied by the authorities from health and meteorological departments submitted the emergency plan before the court during a hearing conducted by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in the evening. The officials also consulted environmental experts before finalising the plan.

Earlier, the secretary told the court the current index of the air quality was 107, claiming that it fell in satisfactory category. He said Tuesday’s rain was instrumental in decreasing the air pollution and smog.

Emergency health plan submitted; govt claims AQI is 107

Chief Justice Shah directed the secretary to make sure the real-time ratings of the AQI were uploaded on the website of the environment department on a daily basis.

During the hearing in the morning, the chief justice expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the environment and health departments, especially concerning the smog crisis.

On an expert opinion given to the court by pulmonologist Prof Dr Kamran Cheema, the CJ also reprimanded the authorities for not issuing a timely advice for schoolchildren, senior citizens and pregnant women against their outdoor exposure during smog.

The government officials, however, kept claiming that the situation was not of severe nature and did not require imposition of health emergency.

Additional Advocate General Anwaar Hussain also told the court that air polluting industries had been shut down by the government as a measure to control causes of smog.

The chief justice adjourned hearing until today (Wednesday) with directions to the government to strictly implement the emergency health plan in case smog prevailed again.

Advocate Sheraz Zaka had argued on behalf of the petitioner, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Walid Iqbal, the Environment Protection Department had failed to take measures for implementation of smog policy. He said the lack of performance by the department had resulted in an increase in pollution levels across the province. He said the government had introduced the smog policy on the direction of the court but it was not taking effective steps for its implementation.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2017