Schools in three cities shut today as smog hits Punjab

Updated November 22, 2019

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Lahore: A commuter rides his motorbike amid heavy smog enveloping the provincial capital on Thursday.—AFP
Lahore: A commuter rides his motorbike amid heavy smog enveloping the provincial capital on Thursday.—AFP

LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to close all public and private schools in Lahore, Faisal­abad and Gujranwala on Fri­day (today) as air pollution worsens in these districts.

The air quality in central Punjab, especially in Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala, was rated as “severe” for the last couple of days in a row. A thick grey haze covers these cities, making travel and outdoor activities both difficult and dangerous. Lahore once again became the second most polluted city in the world after India’s Delhi.

According to a notification issued by the school education department, schools will remain closed due to “dense smog” in three districts, including Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala.

Earlier this month, the education department had prohibited holding of all outdoor activities in public and private schools across the province till Dec 20 for the same reason. The government had directed all students to wear air filter masks during school hours. It had also decided to hold awareness sessions on environment in all schools.

This is for the third time in a month that the government has decided to keep schools closed due to smog — a kind of pollution caused by the mixture of smoke and fog in the air.

Lahore’s air quality remained ‘very unhealthy’ with an air quality ranking of 245 on Thursday evening, according to Air Visual’s Air Quality Index (AQI). The provincial capital was ranked the most polluted city in the world on Thursday, according to Air Visual, which records air pollution levels across the globe in real time.

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 the horizon from November to February. The situation has worsened this year.

Earlier this month, a group of students petitioned the Lahore High Court, seeking a change in the AQI measurement system and implementation of the smog policy.

The Lahore High Court on Thursday directed the Punjab government to take all precautionary measures to control smog. Justice Jawad Hassan issued the directive while disposing of a public interest petition in the light of a report submitted by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director General Tanvir Warraich.

The report said action against more than 567 industrial units had been taken and in future the government was taking every possible measure to control smog. It said recommendations of a smog commission had also been taken into consideration while adopting measures to eliminate the harmful weather.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2019