LAHORE: The Punjab government on Monday deferred its plan to impose a ‘soft curfew’ on Wednesdays after reviewing smog situation in the provincial metropolis.
Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi held a cabinet meeting with regard to Wednesday holiday to review smog eradication measures.
Punjab Information and Culture Minister Amir Mir addressed a press conference at the Directorate General Public Relations Department following cabinet meeting on Monday.
He said the current smog situation presents a notable improvement compared to January 2023.
City falls to 54th position in smog index
He said previously topping the smog index, Lahore has now descended to the 54th position and this shift can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the influence of rainfall and government initiatives.
He said among the most effective governmental measures has been the enforcement of Section 144 in the city, alongside restrictions on smog-emitting vehicles and crop residue burning, practices that continue to be upheld.
He said further steps in this direction will be considered with an eye on future smog scenarios.
Responding to questions from journalists, the provincial minister affirmed that the Punjab government will pursue legal avenues to reinstate the commissioner’s authority to impose fines on wholesalers, a measure aimed at curbing inflation.
When queried about the implementation of long-term smog control strategies, Amir Mir stated that the caretaker government is deploying every available resource within its limited time frame to ensure compliance.
He further emphasised that decisions regarding permissions for specific political gatherings are influenced by the events of May 9, asserting that any determinations pertaining to political meetings fall within the purview of the courts.
Present alongside Amir Mir were Minister for School Education Mansoor Qadir, Minister for Transport Ibrahim Murad, and Environment Minister Bilal Afzal.
Mansoor Qadir said owing to the improved smog situation, the decision regarding additional holidays in schools on Wednesdays has been postponed. The possibility of a mid-week break will be evaluated on a weekly basis during Monday meetings.
Ibrahim Murad and Bilal Afzal updated the media on departmental efforts to combat smog.
They confirmed that the transport department is rigorously enforcing the closure of vehicles without valid fitness certificates, showing no leniency towards smoke-emitting vehicles. In light of reduced petrol prices, discussions with transporters are underway to lower bus fares.
Bilal Afzal said the Smog Rules of 2023 have been implemented in Punjab to tackle the issue. This empowers the Punjab Environment Protection Department (EPD) to take action against industrial units in violation of these regulations.
He said local transport and industry primarily contribute to smog, with smoke from India accounting for 20 per cent of the problem.
Bilal Afzal added that the EPD conducts a systematic smog study weekly, revealing an increase in the air quality index every Monday and Friday, and a decrease on the weekends.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2023