A city road engulfed by smog. — Online
A city road engulfed by smog. — Online

LAHORE: Smog reached very unhealthy levels (as per the US Consulate readings) in Lahore on Wednesday, worsening eye and throat sores people have been suffering since the beginning of the annual menace around a week ago.

According to the Met department website, (which also quoted the US Consulate readings) the level of air quality index (AQI) in Lahore was 257 (very unhealthy).

US Consulate Twitter account nevertheless indicated much higher figures at different points in the city in the morning.

They showed 506 AQI at the US Consulate, 498 in Gulberg, 491 at Punjab Assembly, 489 at Liberty Market, 453 at Upper Mall, 384 in Allama Iqbal Town’s Zeenat Block and 395 at Sundar Industrial Estate.

Outdoor activities banned in schools

Smog or a high level of air pollution in Lahore is causing eye and throat irritation, skin rashes, besides generating or aggravating pulmonary diseases.

The Punjab environment department says the practice of paddy stubble burning, mainly by the Indian Punjab farmers, is the major contributing factor in the formation of smog during October and November for the past few years.

But independent sources say the permanent contributors to the unhealthy phenomenon include fuel emissions from vehicles on city roads, untreated emissions by industries, particularly steel re-rolling mills that burn used tyres and plastic waste material as an alternate to costly electricity and gas, besides the dirt. They say if crop stubble burning is one of the factors, it only adds to the huge domestic polluters contributions.

Meteorologists say that calm or low wind, low temperatures and humidity during this part of the year help form smog in the highly polluted areas. Humidity keeps the pollutants suspended in the air, they say.

Meanwhile, it remained partly cloudy in Lahore, keeping temperatures low and weather a bit cold. The city’s maximum temperature was 25 degrees C and the minimum 15 degrees Celsius.

The Met department said, a westerly wave was affecting lower parts of the country and was likely to also cover central and upper parts on Wednesday night.

As a result, rain, wind/thunderstorm is expected at scattered places in south Punjab, Sindh and northeastern Balochistan, besides at isolated places in districts of upper Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir in the next 24 hours. Snowfall is also expected over mountain.

Meanwhile, the Punjab school education department has banned outdoor sports and other activities in all the public and private schools of the province because of smog till Dec 20.

Punjab Minister for School Education Murad Raas tweeted: “No outdoor activities in all public and private schools of Punjab till December 20, 2019 due to the Air Quality.

Secondly, all children should wear air filter masks during school hours and lastly, awareness sessions on environment should be held in all schools.”

A department notification addressing all the chief executive officers of the district education authorities in Punjab says: “... there will be no outdoor sports and other activities up till 20th December in all public and private schools in Punjab due to smog.”

It adds that all the students should wear masks while in the school during smog and that arrangements should also be made to create awareness among the students about air quality, prevention of smog and impact of environment on the health of human beings.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019