Smog blamed on Indian farmers begins to hit Lahore

Published October 31, 2019
Commuters drive along a road under heavy smog conditions in New Delhi on October 30, 2019. — AFP
Commuters drive along a road under heavy smog conditions in New Delhi on October 30, 2019. — AFP

LAHORE: Moderate smog has started developing in Lahore because of the lowering minimum temperature, humidity and calm wind at night that is allowing the contributing pollutants, being generated mostly by Indian Punjab farmers by burning massive crop residue, to penetrate the bordering areas.

“We have already taken adequate steps to prevent local contributions to smog, and are ready to combat those from Indian Punjab,” said Environment Protection Secretary Salman Ejaz on Wednesday.

He contradicted reports suggesting development of hazardous level smog in Lahore. “This is false as our authentic data shows much lower levels that are not dangerous at all as yet,” he said.

Chief Meteorologist in Lahore Sahibzad Khan said there was no smog. It was merely smoke and haze, he said, indicating chances of rain and strong westerly winds on Saturday and Sunday.

This would provide relief, though temporary, against smog or whatever, he said.

Human rights group Amnesty International earlier said that the Air Quality Index in Lahore had reached 484 at 10am, adding that the threshold for hazardous level of air quality was 300.

It blamed the Punjab government for exposing people to hazardous air risks in violation of their human rights to life and health.

Smog was witnessed in the bordering areas of Lahore and those in the south along the canal on Wednesday morning.

Haziness, and nose and eye irritation was a clear indication of the beginning of the phenomenon which is pestering Lahore and other Punjab cities in October and November for the past few years.

The main cause is stated to be the burning of crop residue mainly by Indian Punjab farmers. Smog that develops as a result causes worst health threatening conditions in the Indian side up to Delhi.

The Environment Protection Department (EPD) observatory at the Met department’s Jail Road observatory on Wednesday recorded 128 AQI (Air Quality Index) at 12.50pm.

The AQI at Wagah was 280. According to the EPD smog policy, AQI ranging between 101 and 200 indicates slight, 200 to 300 moderate and 400 to 500 hazardous air pollution.

Mr Salman Ejaz said Punjab did not witness smog during most parts of the current month because of extended monsoons and some strong westerly weather systems that pushed back the pollutants from the fields of Indian Punjab.

“NASA Satellite pictures are showing huge crop residue burning in the east Punjab cities Amritsar and Jalandhar. The local contribution is 20 per cent. And we are not having full impact of the smog causing pollutants from the Indian side because of the (favourable) wind direction,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2019

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