Smog continues to disrupt routine life in Punjab


LAHORE: Dense smog on Tuesday continued to disrupt routine life across Punjab as citizens are facing immense difficulties in travelling.

Presence of thick smog is also wreaking havoc with visibility, people are complaining of experiencing breathing difficulties and irritation in eyes.

Visibility on the motorway dropped to 200-300 metres early Tuesday morning, due to the presence of smog. Drivers have been instructed by motorway police to reduce speed and switch on fog lights to avoid any accidents.  This prevalent smog episode is similar to the one that struck Lahore in 2016.

Chief Meteorologist Mohammad Riaz said that smog is caused by a lack of rain, excess pollution, smoke from vehicles, factories and burnt crops. He also said that the smog could only be cleared by rain or strong winds.

Director Environment Protection of the Punjab Environment Department Naseem-ur-Rehman, while talking on a local TV show, said that the provincial government is undertaking a lot of preventive measures to tackle this latest episode of smog.

He further informed that Section 144 had been enforced in the province till December 16 to bar farmers from burning leftover crops waste – which is a contributor to smog. He also said that FIRs would be registered against people who would not comply.

The city traffic police have also been requested to make special traffic arrangements to avoid traffic jams, which further fuel the smog situation, he added.

Doctors have advised people to reduce outdoor activities until the smog lasts, and wear face masks for protection from breathing problems, eye, nose and throat infections.

According to noted climate expert Dr Mehmood Khalid Qamar, fresh readings obtained through the recently installed monitoring equipment showed the level of carbon monoxide at 21.29 milligram per metre on the Mall Road, 17.52 in Mohlanwal, and 6.94 in Gulberg’s Liberty Market, against the maximum permissible limit of 5 mpm.

Jinnah Hospital Head of Medicine Department Dr Kahlid recommended citizens to cover their noses and mouths and wear protective glasses and helmets to fight the effects of smog. He said that most of the patients in the last week complained about breathing problems, sore throat, nose and eye itching.

“Most of the patients who visited Jinnah OPD complained about breathing problems due to smog,” he said and urged the citizens to keep their houses neat and clean besides closing windows so that dust does not enter the house.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has formed a high-level committee to monitor the smog and tasked it to take immediate remedial measures against it. The committee is holding a meeting on a daily basis to ensure coordination among traffic police, agriculture department, local government department and environmental protection department to jointly fight smog.

The committee is looking to formulate an emergency plan to take measures to end smog in the city.

The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday passed the Environment Protection (Amendment) Bill 2017 for the purpose of ensuring a clean environment in the city and taking remedial measures against smog.

What is Smog

Smog is air pollution that reduces visibility according to National Geographic. The term “smog” was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog. The smoke usually came from burning coal. Smog was common in industrial areas and remains a familiar sight in cities today.

Smog is a mixture of air pollutants—nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds—that combine with sunlight to form ozone, according to ThoughtCo. Ozone can be beneficial or harmful, good or bad, depending on its location. Ozone in the stratosphere, high above the Earth, acts as a barrier that protects human health and the environment from excessive amounts of solar ultraviolet radiation. This is the “good kind” of ozone. On the other hand, ground-level ozone, trapped near the ground by heat inversions or other weather conditions, is what causes the respiratory distress and burning eyes associated with smog.

Health experts recommend artificial tears for eyes as one way of dealing with smog. The public is also advised to adopt preventative measures such as avoiding the outdoors and using face masks when going out, especially young children, elderly and patients.