Smog: court shows displeasure at environment staff

Published December 6, 2019
In this file photo, a commuter rides his motorbike amid heavy smog enveloping the provincial capital. —AFP
In this file photo, a commuter rides his motorbike amid heavy smog enveloping the provincial capital. —AFP

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice-designate Mamoon Rashid Sheikh on Thursday showed displeasure at performance of the provincial environment officials and hinted at summoning Chief Minister Usman Buzdar if the government failed to come up with a clear policy on smog.

Hearing identical petitions on the issue of smog, the senior puisne judge also sought details of trees reportedly felled in Changa Manga for widening of roads and another report from the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) about trees cut during the last 10 years in Lahore for widening of roads besides statistics of newly planted trees.

During the hearing, a law officer told the court that as many as 36 government departments had been working jointly to control smog and improve air quality. He said about 3,000 brick kilns had been shut across the province.

At this, Justice Sheikh pointed out that this court and its staff witnessed brick kilns functioning in Multan region. “Whether a case should be lodged on the complaint of this court?” the judge asked the law officer.

The judge regretted that air quality index showed an alarming level of pollution throughout the year, but the government swung into action in the months of October and November.

Advocates Azhar Siddique and Sheraz Zaka represented the petitioners pleading that the government’s equipment to measure air quality index was not in accordance with World Health Organisation criteria.

They said Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad had become the most polluted cities and the government was not taking any effective measures against industrial units established in residential areas and discharging toxic gaseous emissions.

The judge directed the director general of Environmental Protection Agency to submit reports regarding steps taken to implement smog commission recommendations and action taken against the brick kiln industry.

The judge further directed the government to constitute an environmental protection council in order to implement smog commission recommendations. Hearing was adjourned till Dec 10.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019

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