Govt’s anti-smog steps fruitless as Lahore remains most polluted city

Published November 27, 2023
Youngsters make the ‘best use’ of The Mall thoroughfare after its closure as part of smart lockdown on Sunday. — White Star
Youngsters make the ‘best use’ of The Mall thoroughfare after its closure as part of smart lockdown on Sunday. — White Star

LAHORE: The government’s anti-smog steps have remained fruitless so far as Lahore topped the list of most hazardous cities of the world yet again on Sunday even after a smart lockdown for the last three days of the week and ban on the vehicular traffic on the Mall Road on the last day of the week.

The average air quality index (AQI) of Lahore was recorded at 356 (hazardous) on Sunday while the maximum was 444 at 3am.

The government had completely closed the vehicular traffic on the Mall Road for a day but the effort seemed futile as the AQI around the road was 458 in the morning while AQI in the DHA’s Phase 8 was 437, in Gulberg it was 412 and Johar Town 402.

The Mall Road remained closed to all kinds of vehicular traffic and only cyclists and pedestrians were allowed to commute on it.

The Lahore police installed barricades at entry and exit points of the Mall Road while some of the citizens were seen crossing the barricades on cycles. The government installed huge banners and panaflexes to promote cycling to control smog in the city.

Smart lockdown was imposed in six divisions of Punjab; PDMA wants more anti-smog measures

In an unusual sight, a group of youngsters were seen playing cricket on the Mall Road after it was blocked for vehicular traffic by the government. A video of the cricket match is circulating on social media, drawing both amusement and concern from netizens.

The youngsters had creatively used the barricades as a makeshift wicket and started their game amidst smog. When asked why they were not staying indoors due to the hazardous air quality, they responded with humour, stating that the road was blocked for traffic so that they could play cricket on it.

Despite warnings from medical experts suggesting to people to stay indoors and keep windows closed due to smog, the youngsters seemed unfazed. Displaying a nonchalant attitude towards the potential health risks, they claimed that the poor air quality would not affect them.

Interestingly, police were seen patrolling the Mall Road but didn’t make any attempts to stop the youngsters from playing cricket on the road during smog. The incident highlighted the need for increased awareness about the dangers of smog and importance of adhering to safety guidelines during such environmental crisis.

The air quality of the provincial metropolis was still bad when this report was filed at 8:30pm. The real-time air quality ranking at the US consulate was 443, it was 420 at CERP Office, Polo Ground 414, Lahore American School 402, Pakistan Engineering Service Pvt 400 and Fida Hussain House 373.

In the ranking of the cities of the world at 8:30, Lahore was at the top with 327, followed by Delhi at 267 and Karachi at 185.

The government had imposed a smart lockdown in six smog-affected divisions of the province, namely Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Sahiwal and Sargodha.

In Lahore, some markets and shops were found open despite restrictions till 4pm on Sunday and the people were found thronging food points in Liberty Market, Ichhra and Anarkali Bazaar.

In Faisalabad, the police and administration sprung into action against some markets in the city for opening businesses despite government orders to close them as a part of the smart lockdown.

The commissioner, city police officer and deputy commissioner visited various parts of the city and forced the shopkeepers to close down their businesses.

In Gujranwala, shopkeepers openly flouted the lockdown restrictions imposed by the Punjab government. All the businesses on Shaheenabad, Kangniwala, and Pasrur Road were found open.

In Sialkot also, the administration remained active in enforcing the lockdown. Six hotels and eight business centres were sealed for opening up despite the lockdown. The Imam Sahib Sunday Bazaar was also sealed.

In Daska, a school and 11 business centres were sealed while 12 people were arrested for violating lockdown.

Meanwhile, Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Relief Commissioner Nabeel Javed directed the administration to speed up anti-smog measures.

He said the citizens should not violate smart lockdown as the markets were completely closed for any kind of activity. He said the restaurants were allowed to operate after 4pm and action would be taken against any type of violations of anti-smog measures.

Mr Javed said the administration should take action against the farmers and citizens involved in burning crop residue and garbage.

He said a ban was imposed on setting solid waste, plastic, polythene bags, rubber and leather and action would also be taken against vehicles and industrial units emitting smoke.

The citizens of Lahore also took out a bicycle rally from Liberty Chowk to Valencia Town for awareness about the damages of smog by launching a campaign “Ride a bicycle, drive away smog”.

The citizens have come out in the field for awareness about the damages of smog and to clean the city from smog and participated in the bicycle rally. Women and children also participated in the rally and reiterated their resolve to make the city smog-free.

The Police Friendly Patrolling Unit also became a part of the smog awareness rally and remained ahead in creating awareness.

The rally passed through Barkat Market, Jinnah Hospital, Johar Town, and Shaukat Khanum and culminated at Valencia Town.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s projections
Updated 18 Apr, 2024

IMF’s projections

The problems are well-known and the country is aware of what is needed to stabilise the economy; the challenge is follow-through and implementation.
Hepatitis crisis
18 Apr, 2024

Hepatitis crisis

THE sheer scale of the crisis is staggering. A new WHO report flags Pakistan as the country with the highest number...
Never-ending suffering
18 Apr, 2024

Never-ending suffering

OVER the weekend, the world witnessed an intense spectacle when Iran launched its drone-and-missile barrage against...
Saudi FM’s visit
Updated 17 Apr, 2024

Saudi FM’s visit

The government of Shehbaz Sharif will have to manage a delicate balancing act with Pakistan’s traditional Saudi allies and its Iranian neighbours.
Dharna inquiry
17 Apr, 2024

Dharna inquiry

THE Supreme Court-sanctioned inquiry into the infamous Faizabad dharna of 2017 has turned out to be a damp squib. A...
Future energy
17 Apr, 2024

Future energy

PRIME MINISTER Shehbaz Sharif’s recent directive to the energy sector to curtail Pakistan’s staggering $27bn oil...