LAHORE: The Punjab government on Monday announced closure of private offices and educational institutions in the provincial capital on Mondays, in addition to the weekly holidays observed on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov 27 till Jan 15, 2022.

Last week, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had ordered the Punjab government to issue a notification directing private offices in Lahore to halve staff attendance in an effort to tackle smog.

Punjab Relief Commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar issued the directive.

The order, applicable within the territorial limits of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation cites evidence of “persistent deterioration in Air Quality Index of the city of Lahore, fluctuating from satisfactory to poor levels, which is likely to cause breathing discomfort, respiratory tract diseases and heart diseases” as major reasons for the decision.

The directions include that all private offices being operated by companies, private sector entities and other individuals, within the territorial limits of Lahore Metropolitan Corporation, shall remain closed on every Monday, in addition to Saturday and Sunday, with effect from Nov 27, 2021 until Jan 15, 2022. However, their staff may work from home.

It further states all public and private educational institutions (universities, colleges, schools and academies etc.) in territorial limits of Lahore shall remain closed on every Monday, in addition to weekly holidays which shall be observed on Saturday and Sunday, with effect from Nov 27, 2021, until Jan 15, 2022. However, they may arrange virtual classes.

The step was taken after Lahore continuously topped the list of world cities with the most polluted air. The air quality levels of the city had been hazardous and unhealthy for the last two to three weeks.

Meanwhile, All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) President Kashif Mirza chaired a review meeting of the central executive committee on the current situation of smog.

The APPSF meeting rejected the school closure due to smog issues, and instructed the private schools to ensure effective measures to tackle the current situation.

The participants said an irreparable educational loss of the students had already been done due to bad governance and policies of education authorities during Covid-19 pandemic.

They issued SOPs for schools to take measures for smog including wearing masks, sunglasses to prevent itchy eyes, no outdoor morning assembly, no outdoor sports activities, schools may revise and adjust timings during smoggy days, and schools may also conduct online classes, if needed.

Meanwhile, the Punjab transport department has imposed fines worth Rs4.913 million on smoke-emitting vehicles in different areas of the province during October and November. It also conducted challans of 12,176 vehicles while impounding 2,472 vehicles for emitting smoke on roads.

The department spokesperson claimed the DRTAs secretaries have been directed to challan and impound smoke-emitting vehicles for three days under the direction of the Judicial Water and Environment Commission.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2021

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