LAHORE: The city witnessed a considerable improvement in the air quality level from hazardous to unhealthy after a light rain early on Thursday.

According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), the level of pollution in the city improved in every area and was 181 at the time of reporting at 9:30pm. However, the air quality was still far from satisfactory and posed health risks for the residents.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government announced the schedule for the winter vacation in all public and private schools of the province from Dec 18 to Jan 1.

Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi posted on X (formerly twitter): “We held a meeting with experts and government officials today (on Thursday) addressing the smog challenge in Punjab. With an improved Air Quality Index (AQI), no restrictions are planned for the upcoming weekend. Additionally, winter vacation for children will commence from Dec 18, 2023 to Jan 1, 2024.”

Winter vacation in schools from Dec 18 to Jan 1

However, energy and air quality researcher Dawar Butt said Lahore and adjacent regions have had one of the worst Novembers in terms of air quality.

He said air quality only improved during the two windy rain systems (Thursday and Nov 10). “Not a single day was deemed “satisfactory”, while it remained “unhealthy” & “very unhealthy” on most days.”

He said the Punjab government imposed a smart lockdown aimed at reducing traffic but got limited results due to lack of a targeted approach.

He said before November, the previous months saw lower PM2.5 levels, compared with previous years and emissions levels had fallen due to the prevailing economic slowdown.

Quoting the journalists, Mr Butt said the execution of multiple large construction projects right before “smog season” might be the reason, but the government does not monitor its own construction sites for PM2.5.

He said farm fires have continued to drop this year on both sides of the border, reduced to half of the average of past years.

He said all this points to the need for a comprehensive and targeted policy covering major polluting sectors, along with better coordination, capacity, and enforcement.

The LWMC enforcement wing remained active throughout the city to control smog and shared past 30 days activities report.

The report highlights that FIRs were registered against 550 individuals, including violations in nine housing societies, as part of last month’s crackdown. For the crime of burning waste, over 1,200 fines exceeding Rs2.2 million were imposed.

LWMC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Babar Sahib Din states that actions are being taken under the Local Government Act and Section 188 implemented for smog prevention.

In response to illegal dumping, more than 50 vehicles have been seized, marking the initiation of legal proceedings. Over 1,453 warning notices have also been issued for minor violations.

LWMC spokesperson Umar Chaudhary said stringent measures are being taken against elements contributing to smog.

He said the enforcement wing has taken legal action against societies involved in illegal dumping, including I.P. Society, Nespak Society, Luxury Housing Society, Nasheman-i-Iqbal, Audit and Account Society, Engineers Society, Valencia Town, Punjab Cooperative Society, and State Life Housing Society. Further actions are under way against those responsible for burning waste.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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