LAHORE: Activists of two oraganisations campaigning for the city’s environment – Lahore Bachao Tehreek and Lahore Conservation Society – have announced they have prepared an action plan that needs coordinated efforts by different government departments to make Lahore smog-free.

Lahore Bachao Tehreek Convener Imrana Tiwana and Lahore Conservation Society President Naeem Bajwa, revealed this on Wednesday at a press conference at theLahore Press Club, where they were flanked by other activists.

Addressing the presser, Ms Tiwana lamented that Lahore has become a “toxic gas chamber” because of the hazardous level of smog in its environment. She said that they had written letters to the prime minister, president and chief justice of the Supreme Court, urging them to intervene to address the smog issue faced by the provincial metropolis.

She said both organisations have requested a meeting with the premier and the president to share the action plan and the mechanism for its implementation, with them.

Educational institutions, offices to close on Saturday

“We have also requested the chief justice of Supreme Court, Punjab chief minister, World Health Organization (WHO), IUCN, UNEP, WWF, federal ministers, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and other stakeholders to look into the grave situation created because of smog. We have also requested the CJP to take suo moto notice of the smog situation,” Ms Tiwana said.

She demanded Lahore should be declared ‘Red Alert Zone’, as this 5000-year-old city has become a toxic place replete with smog.

“We invoke articles 9 and 14 of the Constitution of Pakistan, urging that these be followed in letter and spirit,” she said quoting, “The Right to Life and Dignity; no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law.” from the Constitution.

She said in Pakistan Euro 2 petrol was being used, whereas in the developed world people are using Euro 7 petrol, demanding that at least Euro 5 category fuel should be introduced here because the use of Euro 2 petrol was causing pollution.

She rolled out a 43-point agenda for immediate action against smog, saying the Air Quality Index (AQI) states that living for one year in Lahore’s poor air quality reduces life expectancy by seven to eight years and Lahore has lost 75 percent of it green cover. She added that 83pc of the city’s air pollution is being caused by vehicular emissions.

Ms Tiwana said that construction of flyovers in the city on different roads was also a major contributory factor to the pollution and smog.

The Lahore Master plan should have some boundaries, she said. She suggested that there should be a ‘congestion charge’ on all busy roads to reduce emissions and traffic congestion in the city. She also proposed imposition of ‘vehicle quota’ across Lahore, purchase and use of electric buses across all educational institutions, and banning of two-stroke engines.

Asking whether Lahore was only meant for car owners,Naeem Bajwa stressed the need to improve local transport system to encourage less use of private cars to help reduce air pollution.

On the occasion, a 15-year-old boy, Rafay, representing the city’s youth, requested the higher authorities of the country to take notice of the horrific situation of smog to make the city a better place for the next generation.

CABINET: The Punjab caretaker set up has announced the closure of all educational institutions and public and private offices on Saturday in the province as part of measures to mitigate smog.

The decision was made by the provincial cabinet on Wednesday in light of the Lahore High Court verdict.

Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi stated that, considering the smog situation, it had been decided that all educational institutions, government, and private offices would remain closed on Saturday.

“On Saturday, markets will open after 3 pm,” he said, adding that Smog Air Filter Ionizer Units would be installed at 12 places in Lahore to reduce smog. “A high-powered environmental commission to control smog will also be set up. Experts from Bahauddin Zakariya University and Punjab University have been immediately contacted for artificial rain,” he said. Additionally, a team of Chinese experts has been invited for consultation.

With the support of the Chinese Consul General, research and technology will be used to control smog in consultation with Chinese experts, he said. Another special technical team from the Punjab government will leave for Almaty next week in this regard.

He mentioned that a ban would be imposed on buying fuel bikes at the official level, and now only electric bikes will be sold. “An environmental laboratory will be established for the first time in Punjab. Checking of sub-standard fuel has been expedited in all districts, including Lahore.”

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2023

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