Smog level increasing dangerously

Ali Raza
Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022

LAHORE:As Lahore remained on top of world’s most polluted cities on Monday, the polluters were also seen on rampage in the provincial metropolis.

Data collected from IQAir revealed that Lahore topped the world’s most polluted cities with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 305. The high level of smog was causing serious health problems for the citizens. The other top most polluted cities included Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with an AQI of 214, Mumbai, India with an AQI of 192, Delhi, India with an AQI of 188, Dhaka, Bangladesh with an AQI of 175, Bratislava, Slovakia with an AQI of 165, Baghdad, Iraq with an AQI of 164, Kolkata, India with an AQI of 164, Zagreb, Croatia with an AQI of 159 and Wroclaw, Poland with an AQI of 157. Environmentalists said the smog levels have increased dangerously in the provincial metropolis and the Punjab government should take immediate steps to save the citizens. They suggested announcement of early winter holidays in schools and colleges, ban on all kind of outdoor sports activities, reduction in traffic on city roads and strict control on smoke-emitting industrial units.

A number of citizens while talking to The News on various city roads claimed that they were feeling difficulty in breathing, coughing, dryness of throat, itching and redness in eyes. They said traffic jams on most of the major city roads was a routine and the government should control this. Shakeel Ahmed, a resident of Brandreth Road, said that he used to pick and drop his two children to their schools and both his children were coughing badly outdoor. Samiullah, a resident of Bahria Town, said smog was very dominant in the area especially in early morning. He said the traffic rush on the canal road was one of the reasons. Meanwhile, Environment Protection Department continued its anti-smog operations and on Monday a special squad of EPD demolished several pyrolysis plants in Lakhoder area, which were earlier sealed due to causing huge carbon in the air.

The said plants were operating illegally in the fields along the bed of Ravi River. The anti-smog squad headed by Deputy Director Environment took action and sealed Swail Khan Pyrolysis Plant, Qadir Khan Pyrolysis Plant, Iqbal Pyrolysis Plant and Haji Aslam Pyrolysis Plant. Officials said Javed Khan Pyrolysis Plant, Hamza Pyrolysis Plant, SA Kasuri pyrolysis plants and Sarfraz Dawood Khan’s plant were also sealed and their outer walls were demolished.

They said 400 tons of carbon was also recovered from different plants. The installation and operation of pyrolysis plants was completely illegal, official said, adding despite this these plants were operating in the open fields near Ravi River area without any fear. Secretary Environment Department Usman Ali Khan has also directed the Deputy Commissioner to demolish these plants and take legal action against them by getting the records of land owners.

Meanwhile, different factors contributing to smog in Lahore include burning crop residues, vehicle pollution, industrial emissions, particulate matter, and metrologic elements that generate fog, which then mixes with the haze and causes smog.

These were the findings of the Environment Protection Department (EPD) regarding the air pollution issue in Punjab which were shared in a consultative session on the ‘Clean Air Policy and Action Plan’ organized by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and EPD. Additional Secretary Samia Saleem led EPD team.

As much as 43 percent of air pollution was contributed by transportation, 12 percent by power, 20 percent by agriculture and other sources, and 25 percent by industry. The EDP officials also informed the attendees regarding the work they are doing to reduce air pollution. Through a presentation they displayed their efforts and shown that according to morning data for December 5, 2022, the AQI at EPD was 430, in Sundar the AQI was recorded 349 At Punjab University it was decreased to 289, which is still unhealthy, from Badami Bagh's 373.

Furthermore, the data analysis on June 30 revealed that a variety of vehicles, including motor cars (9.91%), motorcycles (82.25%), trucks (0.42%), delivery vans (1.42%), buses (0.54%), auto rickshaws (2.90%), tractors and others (2.56%), contributed to air pollution.

Moreover, Lahore, Gujranwala, and Faisalabad division are the most afflicted by the smog problem, despite the fact that it affects numerous divisions of Punjab and neighbouring provinces. Between October 31 and November 28, around 2,173 vehicles, including those entering Lahore through the Saggian Area, Thokar Niaz Baig, and Ravi Toll Plaza Motorways, were inspected. Of those, 1477 received fines for emissions.

The EPD has also set up a control room to keep track of the city's AQI around the clock. The monitoring room notifies the appropriate DCs of emission points and occurrences involving stubble burning. The PITB has also created an Application for real-time uploading of actions taken against smog-intensive areas, such as portions being sealed, FIRs filed, and fines levied.

Additionally, it assists in maintaining dashboards, geotagging actions made in the control room, and keeping track of the nine anti-smog squads deployed in Lahore. Three teams with EPD experts and light scatters are working with the transportation department to examine late-night HTVs and establish a deterrent.

The important role of LWMC in dealing with fugitive dust includes the creation of a schedule, daily reporting on road washing, and water sprinkling on unpaved roads identified by ACs under DCs' supervision. Complete prohibition of trash burning, with district administration oversight. The EPD has also revealed the Provincial Climate Change Policy and smog control plan at LCCI.

LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that in order to improve Punjab's air quality index, combined efforts and military-style tactics are needed given the current levels of air pollution and smog. He informed that in Punjab, the contribution of industry to air pollution is not greater than 23 percent. Instead of condemning the sector alone, he continued, "We need to give the other elements the same kind of attention." said Kashif Anwar, who also added that the business community is aware of its responsibilities and is working to ensure that the orders from the Lahore High Court, the Water Commission, and the EPD are fully implemented.