Smog spreads throughout the Punjab, posing threat to health


LAHORE: After overcoming provincial capital Lahore, the toxic smog engulfed other parts of the Punjab on Wednesday and made the citizens face problems while travelling as well as suffering from various health-related issues.

The smog has been caused due to various toxic pollutants mixing up with moisture present in the upper atmosphere. A thin blanket of smog has reduced the visibility on different roads in the province which made the motorists suffer while commuting.

Smog is not a new phenomenon but it was a novel concept for  Pakistanis when it was first witnessed in Lahore on November 2, 2016. It was so new to them that it made them inquire about the occurrence while being highly suspicious about the sudden change in weather.

Many experts had warned the concerned authorities to take the mitigation measure to cope with the issue in future but authorities remained reluctant to put any effort toward this throughout the year. Punjab Environment Protection Agency (EPA) which is the responsible authority to check and monitor the environmental situation of the province badly failed to record the data regarding pollution.

Yesterday the visibility reduced from 200 to 300 meters at different sections of the motorway over which motorway police issued an advisory to the drivers to reduce the speed and switch on fog lights.

Earlier it was considered that only Lahore was the polluted city in Punjab but yesterday the smog proved that no city of Punjab was safe from the environmental pollution.

The smog was reported in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Gujrat, Khanewal, Bahawalnagar, Multan and others various cities throughout the province.

According to experts, the immediate respite from persisting smog can be provided by rain. However, the Chief Meteorologist Muhammad Riaz cleared that there was no chance of rain in next seven days. He attributed the smoke emitting sources and the burnt crops among the factors behind smog.

EPA Punjab introduced the ‘Policy on Controlling Smog’ on October 20, 2017, after Pakistan Today revealed the news regarding the present smog on October 16, ten days prior to the issue started.

EPA officials claimed to install the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations in various parts of the metropolis from where they have obtained the data.

However, no data regarding pollution have been released for the reasons best known to the authorities. The department also claims that a number of preventive measures had been adopted to tackle the issue including sealing of factories and issuing tickets to vehicles polluting the air.

Sources in EPA reveal that the level of toxic elements such as carbon monoxides (CO), Oxides of Sulfur and Oxides of Nitrates in the air has reached far higher levels than the normal range prescribed by National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).

The city traffic police have also been requested to make special traffic arrangements to avoid traffic jams as it adds to the smog.

Since the smog policy has been introduced, EPA with the help of transport and traffic police has issued at least 6,000 tickets to vehicles across the province.

On the other hand it has sealed around 200 industrial units accusing them OF causing pollution. These actions are being taken on the basis of clause 16 of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA).

According to information available with this scribe, such industries are being sealed without any scientific pieces of evidence as no laboratory test was conducted before sealing the units.

According to different reports due to toxic smog viral, airborne diseases have been spreading at a rapid pace.

When EPA officials were contacted for a statement, they admitted their inefficiency and also made excuses of unavailability of resources. On the other hand, in past, the department procured a score of equipment and instead of its utilisation, kept them useless.

Pakistan Today also highlighted time and again regarding the misappropriation made during the procurement of laboratory equipment.

The Albayrak Waste Management Company has also launched its awareness campaign in the city. During this campaign, the company has announced to distribute face masks as a precautionary measure against smog.