LAHORE: The air quality in Lahore remained unhealthy despite the ‘smart lockdown’ imposed by the Punjab government in 10 smog-hit districts for one day.

According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), Lahore recorded an AQI of 214 at 7:45pm on Saturday, which falls under the category of unhealthy. The main pollutant was PM2.5, which is a fine particulate matter that can enter the lungs and bloodstream, resulting in serious health issues.

The Punjab government had decided to impose a ‘smart lockdown’ in Lahore, Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Gujranwala, Narowal, Hafizabad, Sialkot, Wazirabad and Haveli Bahadur Shah on Nov 18 to tackle the escalating air pollution levels and an alarming increase in conjunctivitis cases amid smog. All public and private schools, colleges, universities and offices were closed. Shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas and gyms opened at 3pm.

Essential services like bakeries, pharmacies, petrol pumps, vaccination centres, e-commerce centres, postal/courier services, utility stores, cellular network/telecom centres and public transport were allowed to operate.

The ‘smart lockdown’ was aimed at reducing the vehicular and industrial emissions that contribute to the smog formation. The Punjab government had also banned the burning of crop residues, garbage, tyres, polythene bags and leather in the province.

However, these measures seem to have little impact on the air quality, as the smog situation persists in Lahore and other districts.

Although shops and markets were closed, there was a considerable flow of traffic on roads and it seemed people were not complying with the lockdown in the city.

The smog is a result of a combination of factors, including low wind speed, high humidity, temperature inversion, trans-boundary pollution from India and local emissions from vehicles, industries, brick kilns and crop burning.

The smog not only affects the visibility and causes traffic accidents, but also poses serious health risks to residents, especially those with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, children, elderly and pregnant women. Some of the common symptoms of smog exposure are coughing, wheezing, chest pain, eye irritation, headache, nausea and fatigue.

The experts have advised the citizens to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the harmful effects of smog, such as wearing masks, using air purifiers, avoiding outdoor activities, especially during peak hours, and seeking medical attention if they experience any discomfort.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2023

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