‘Smog was caused by wind vortex in region’

Updated November 08, 2019

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LAHORE: An environment ministry official provides masks to children on Thursday. Dangerously poor air quality forced the provincial government to close all schools in the city for the day. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the sudden increase in smog on Wednesday was the result of burning crops in India, along the border with Pakistan, accompanied by a change in wind direction.—AP
LAHORE: An environment ministry official provides masks to children on Thursday. Dangerously poor air quality forced the provincial government to close all schools in the city for the day. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the sudden increase in smog on Wednesday was the result of burning crops in India, along the border with Pakistan, accompanied by a change in wind direction.—AP

LAHORE: Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said on Thursday the sudden increase in smog on Wednesday was the result of burning crops in the border area of India along with a change in wind direction. He added that because of rain, the situation had become better at night.

Meteorological Department Director Mian Ajmal Shad told Dawn that in the winter, west to east winds were normal. “Most of the year round, Pakistan receives Westerly waves,” he said.

“But these winds are of a different altitude in the summer. In the winters, they are of lower altitude so they hit more. However wind patterns can change a lot during this time.”

From 3pm to 8pm on Wednesday, winds were coming from the eastern side, he said, according to the Narowal, Lahore and Bahawalnagar stations.

According to information, the westerly winds that occur throughout the year are weak winds and can be easily deflected by other winds they counter. The cyclones in the Arabian sea can impact them, the winds can get dragged down south, while the earth’s rotation also generates the Coriolis effect – (The Coriolis effect is defined as how a moving object seems to veer toward the right in the Northern hemisphere and left in the Southern hemisphere.)

Researcher Dawar N Butt says that “Westerly winds in combination with eastern winds developed a vortex in the region. This vortex is what was accumulating the pollutants and recirculating them but it did not just affect Lahore, there was a distinct spike in PM2.5 in Gujranwala, and Muridke as well.” The rise in PM2.5 shot up to 800 in many places.

After the thunderstorms from winds coming from north to south, the vortex was interrupted and the air quality was pushed down.

The chief minister, though, showed concerned over smog, he, however, has yet to implement the standards set by the smog commission.

Some of the brick kilns are running, emitting black smoke, while low quality fuel emissions continue to cause year round air pollution. The focus, say activists and academics, should not be from season to season, but all year round, and monitoring should be done of vehicles.

A recent Food and Agriculture Organization report showed that the transport sector contributed most to Pakistan’s pollution, followed by industries. Indoor pollution was also high on the scale.

Spokesperson for Environment Protection Department Anjum Ijaz, however, said earlier this month that in fact the air quality had been satisfactory and that no warning needed to be given.

At the same time, there has been little checks and balance of these contributing factors, including the stubble burning happening in Pakistan.

According to a notification by the Home Department on October 1, section 144 had been imposed, but stubble burning is happening.

A source said that only 65 per cent of the rice crop had yet to be harvested, which meant more burning was expected.

The EPD said its teams distributed face masks among motorcyclists, motorists and pedestrians on important roads of the city.

GCU: The Government College University’s Environment Protection Society set up a camp to raise awareness among university students about smog.

Students were sensitised to precautionary measures.

GCU EPS Adviser Dr Faiza Sharif said the situation of smog was worse this year, so the government, civil society and educational institutions must beef up their efforts for raising awareness among people about environment pollution.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019