LHC deplores lack of admin response to smog

Updated 31 Oct 2020

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A Pakistani family walk during dense fog and smog in Lahore on December 24, 2018. — AFP/File
A Pakistani family walk during dense fog and smog in Lahore on December 24, 2018. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday expressed its dissatisfaction over the measures taken by the Punjab government to control smog and observed that the chief secretary had not taken the issue seriously.

Hearing the petitions relating to different environmental challenges, Justice Shahid Karim directed an additional advocate general to convey the court’s concern to the chief secretary.

Perturbed over the alarming Air Quality Index (AQI) of the provincial capital, the judge ordered the chief secretary to conduct a meeting with the Lahore chief traffic officer (CTO) and the environment department to ensure a ban on smoke-emitting vehicles in the province, and action against the industries causing air pollution.

Regretting district administration’s lack of concern over the issue, the judge said there was a time when the deputy commissioners in every district used to perform their statutory obligations and implement law in letter and spirit. Unfortunately, they [the officers] were not sensitised to the environmental issues that had adversely affected sustainable development, he added.

To the law officer’s statement that a notification had been issued to declare smog as a calamity under the Punjab National Calamity Act 1958, Justice Karim observed that mere issuance of a notification won’t help curb the smog unless or until the chief secretary and the commissioners took serious actions and passed executive orders against the industries violating the relevant laws.

The law officer further informed the court that the commissioners had been delegated the task in all major cities to curb the smog.

The judge directed the government to release information regarding the AQI, and make it available to the public.

Advocate Sheraz Zaka, representing a petitioner, said the government needed to take drastic steps and must ensure closure of brick kilns.

A lawyer, on behalf of the environment department, assured the court that the entire brick kiln industry would remain shut from November to the middle of December.

A counsel for the association of brick kiln owners objected to the decision of the industry shutdown. However, the judge observed that no concession could be given to the brick kiln industry as the wellbeing of the public at large was at stake.

The hearing was adjourned for Nov 2.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2020