LAHORE: The district administration on Saturday constituted five ‘anti-smog squads’ to monitor pollution levels in the provincial metropolis and take action against those contributing to the hazardous air quality index.
Commissioner retired Capt Muhammad Usman issued the orders for constitution of anti-smog squads while presiding over a meeting at his camp office on Saturday. Deputy Commissioner Umer Sher Chattha was also present.
Addressing the meeting, the commissioner said the anti-smog squads would comprise officials of the environment department, Metropolitan Corporation Lahore, Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa), police, district administration and Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco).
The move came days after Punjab Minister for Environment Muhammad Rizwan, in an interview with a private TV channel, claimed that there was no smog in the province for the last two years.
Teams authorised to seal industrial units, penalise violators of regulations
“I wanted to tell all my friends, including the journalists, that they do not know how to fix air quality monitors,” he said and added that the government was starting a plan to educate all the people about air quality.
“The environment department recorded Lahore air quality index at 134 while Town Hall has 192 and Model Town 186,” he claimed.
However, as opposed to the claims of the minister, DC Chattha issued a notification for forming anti-smog squads.
According to the notification, available with Dawn, “In pursuance of directions of PDMA wherein smog has been declared as calamity in terms of Punjab National Calamities (Prevention and Relief) Act 1958 and considering worsening situation of Air Quality index in Lahore, it is decided to make five special squads for 30 days to control smoke-emitting industries and to enforce Punjab Environment Quality Standards (sic)”.
The deputy director (Environment) would be focal person of the squads and inspector (environment) would lead them. The notification further stated that every squad would visit 60 industrial (furnace/boilers) units in a week and seal the industrial units using substandard fuel or generating smoke. The squads would check the status of the pollution monitoring devices and compliances of Judicial Environmental Commission measures while those burning of solid/green waste would be penalised.
The violation of building by-laws, misuse of water connection and electricity theft would also be inspected and those using substandard fuel and non-operative scrubbers and emission control units would be penalised.
The commissioner said and 305 factories were using boilers and furnaces in Lahore and each squad must check 12 units per day and 60 units per week. He claimed two teams were taking action against smoke-emitting vehicles in the provincial metropolis.
Mr Usman said a special squad would seal the industrial units using the substandard fuel or generating excessive smoke. He said seal breakers must be arrested and writ of administration should be established. He stressed that zigzag brick kilns must be rechecked and revisited.
Environment experts Dr Javed Iqbal said air pollution was causing health issues and the citizens must use face masks and take other precautionary measures to remain safe from smog.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2021