LHC hints at week-long lockdown for schools, private offices

Published December 2, 2021
People commute along a street amid smoggy conditions in Lahore on Wednesday. — AFP
People commute along a street amid smoggy conditions in Lahore on Wednesday. — AFP

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday hinted at ordering a week-long lockdown for schools and private offices in the provincial metropolis due to its poor Air Quality Index (AQI).

Hearing several public interest petitions on the environmental issues, Justice Shahid Karim observed that the AQI aggravated to dangerous levels, making Lahore one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Observing that desperate times call for desperate measures, he said health emergency must be imposed in the city.

A director of the Punjab Disaster Management Authority told the court that there had been a decline in the smog during the last week, hoping the trend to continue during the next week.

A judicial water commission also submitted its report to the court, disclosing that notices had been issued to 47 sugar mills in the province for causing air pollution and not installing water treatment plants.

Advocate Azhar Siddique, on behalf of a petitioner, argued the provincial government had not been performing its statutory obligations to control pollution.

Representing another petitioner, Advocate Sheraz Zaka said the commissioner must ensure closure of the factories causing air pollution and smog. He regretted that the government failed to punish those involved in crop stubble burning -- an activity that massively contributed to smog.

Justice Karim lauded the traffic police efforts for controlling traffic congestion and allowing free flow of vehicles in the city.

Lord Mayor retired Col Mubashir Javed apprised the court of the steps taken against pollution in the city. He said several blocked roads had been reopened for traffic.

The judge adjourned the further hearing till the next week and directed the PDMA officials and others to come prepared for the lockdown if the AQI remained poor.

Separately, Justice Karim disposed of multiple petitions, directing the police not to interfere in the lawful business of oil depots, alleged to have been involved in selling adulterated low-quality oil products and hence contributing towards air pollution.

The judge directed the police if the petitioners (oil depots) were allegedly involved in selling low-quality products, the jurisdiction was vested in oil operations director under the Pakistan Petroleum Blending Marketing Retailing Rules 1971.

The judge noted that it was the jurisdiction of the oil operations director, who could initiate proceedings against the petitioners after conducting sample test of oil products.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2021

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