A satellite image by NASA released on Wednesday evening shows massive stubble burning by paddy farmers in Indian Punjab. The issue is affecting India as well, as the Indian Supreme Court has asked chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and UP to control the menace or face suspension.
A satellite image by NASA released on Wednesday evening shows massive stubble burning by paddy farmers in Indian Punjab. The issue is affecting India as well, as the Indian Supreme Court has asked chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and UP to control the menace or face suspension.

LAHORE: After a sudden spike in Lahore’s Air Quality Index (AQI) from less than 200 to more than 500 late on Wednesday, the chief minister announced closure of public and private schools on Thursday. This is the first time that smog has forced closure of schools.

Just before midnight, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar tweeted: “Due to sudden increase in smog, all schools in Lahore will remain closed tomorrow. We are closely monitoring the #LahoreSmog situation. Administration is already on high alert and have tasked them to escalate actions against crop burning and other factors that contribute to smog.”

As per Lahore US consulate Air Quality Monitor feed, the level of smog was hazardous and at 10pm, Lahore’s AQI was PM2.5 - 580.

Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas was also vigilant about the toxic air. At 9:52pm, he tweeted: “SMOG at abnormally high levels right now in Lahore. Continuously monitoring the situation. Please refrain from taking the kids outdoors unless it is absolutely necessary. Will update.”

It was, however, left to the chief minister to announce a holiday in schools after realising the adversity of the situation.

The itching air, complicating respiratory systems of the people, was alarming by the evening. And for that reason, #LahoreSmog was the top trend on Twitter. Twitter user @Sanam_Afridi110 tweeted: “My eyes are burning and I can’t even breathe properly #LahoreSmog.”

As per weather pundits, the sudden rise in smog stemmed from the change of direction of wind, which brought smoke and other pollutants from India. They predicted that rain on Thursday would improve the air quality.

Health experts advised people, especially children and the elderly, to remain indoors and take more liquids.

A group of students have petitioned the Lahore High Court seeking change in the AQI measurement system, and implementation of the Smog Policy.

For the last four years, smog, rightly being called the fifth season of Lahore, has deprived the people of sunshine and dusk-hour charm as layers of toxic smoke engulf horizon from November to February.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019