Schools closed for two days because of ‘hazardous level’ of smog

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Labourers use masks and cloth to avoid smog on GT Road.  — White Star
Labourers use masks and cloth to avoid smog on GT Road. — White Star

LAHORE: Despite the light rain, smog further intensified in Lahore on Thursday and reached the last ‘hazardous level’, aggravating its negative impact on humans, animals and plants and forcing the provincial government to order closure of all private and public schools in three cities for Friday (today) and Saturday (tomorrow).

Smog had crossed the ‘very dangerous’ level in the city on Wednesday. Hazardous level is ahead of it, and is considered the last level as per international standards.

According to the Met Department, the maximum reading of the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city at 4pm was 342. At that time it was drizzling in many localities, showing that the rain was too light to settle the huge amount of pollutants in the air.

The Environment Protection Department reported in the morning that its apparatus at the Met Department’s Jail Road office noted AQI at 236 and at Wagah 422 – hazardous level.

The American Consulate’s Twitter handle continued to project higher AQI throughout the day. The level peaked to 515 at 5pm.

Weather pundits said that only gusty wind and heavy rain could settle smog.

Meanwhile, it remained cloudy in Lahore throughout the day. The rain, light in most localities, started in the afternoon and continued till the evening intermittently.

Though the rain provided relief from smog, it still was hugely affecting people.

The Met Department said the westerly wave affecting most parts of the country and giving rain in many cities was likely to persist till Saturday morning.

It said Islam Kot (Sindh) recorded 85mm rain, Chachro 75, Dalai 74, Mithi 39,Nagarparkar 27, Diplo 8, Kalam 17, Patan 8, Mirkhani 7, Balakot 4, Kakul, Chitral, Drosh, Parachinar 3mm each, Malamajabba 2, Astore 16, Gupis 3, D G Khan (City 7, Fort Munro 3), Toba Tek Singh 6, Multan, Jhang 5mm each, Kot Addu 3, Faisalabad 2, Lahore 1, Muzaffarabad 6, Chakotti 3, Garhi Dupata 2, Rawalakot 1, Barkhan 3, Quetta 2 and Lasbella received 1mm rain.

It forecast widespread rain/wind-thunderstorm in upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, scattered rain in Punjab, lower Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northeastern Balochistan, Sindh, Islamabad, Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir in the next 24 hours.

Snowfall over mountains is also expected during the period. A heavy fall is also expected at few places in upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has decided to close all public and private schools in Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala as the air pollution worsens.

The air quality in central Punjab especially in Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala was rated as “severe” for the last couple of days.

The schools will remain closed on Nov 15 and 16, according to a notification issued by the school education department of the provincial government.

Punjab Minister for Schools Education Dr Murad Raas in a tweet vowed that the government would protect school-going children at all costs. “The Punjab government is taking all necessary steps to improve air quality,” he added.

On Wednesday, the school education department had banned outdoor sports and other activities in all the public and private schools of the province till Dec 20.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019