LAHORE, Nov 12 (APP): Despite claimed efforts by the authorities, year after year deteriorating environmental situation in Lahore has exposed millions of residents to the worst form of smog and ailment as the city falls among the most polluted metropolitans of the world.
As the winter is yet to set in full swing, smoggy and misty atmosphere has engulfed the city with Air Quality Index remaining unhealthy for all age groups. Usually thick smog occurs in December or January, but this time its emergence during October has cautioned provincial administration and city masters of a messy winter ahead.
Punjab Environmental Protection Department has revealed that on Tuesday (Nov 07) the maximum level of pollution in terms of particulate matter (pm 2.5) was recorded 326 at Town Hall, 292 at Lahore College for Women and 225 at Punjab University.
According to Punjab EPD, 0-50 concentration of pm 2.5 is good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-150 is moderate, 151-200 is unhealthy for sensitive groups and from 201-300, it is unhealthy, and 300-400 very unhealthy for everyone.
Although independent reports mention this level exceeding 400 at some places yet the Punjab EPD does not authenticate this figure. Therefore, even based on the EPD figures, the situation is still much worrisome.
“EPA has set up 14 special squads to monitor environmental degradation round the clock and each district has a smog control committee headed by Deputy Commissioners to address stubble burning issue,” said Zaheer Abbas Malik Director General Punjab EPA.
Highlighting EPA’s measures for smog control, he mentioned launching a project for creating an environment-friendly atmosphere wherein citizens would be identifying pollution-causing elements.
“The EPA has lodged 3132 FIRs against pollution-causing units, imposed Rs 318 million fines besides sealing 4219 smoke emitting industrial units in Punjab during March to November 2023,” he said.
“We have also launched an “eco-watch” app, to check our staff’s live location, their activities to combat smog and collect real-time data on fines imposed against polluters,” he added.
Overpopulation is a major issue leading to environmental degradation with experts voicing concerns about a substantial climate-induced migration in different areas. The UN Population Division has projected that nearly 50% per cent Pakistani population will be residing in unplanned urban areas by 2025.
This trend is clearly visible in Lahore where the population has crossed 13 million and it is becoming catastrophic for municipal authorities to effectively manage urbanization and a swiftly growing population.
“Smog has been declared as disaster and the provincial management has been advised to take immediate measures to combat it,” remarked Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Punjab spokesman Ch. Mazhar Hussain.
He said the Deputy Commissioners have been authorized as Relief Commissioners to take action against smog-contributing outfits. “We are organizing seminars at educational institutes on smog control as a mobile application – SANS – has also been launched where citizens especially university students can voluntarily file complaints against polluters.”
Cognizant of the situation, Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi has ordered strict action against polluters. An Anti-Smog Cell has been set up besides constituting a 15-member committee to address smog-related issues.
Lahore Police and Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) have jointly started action against smoke emitting vehicles and Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) and other agencies are lodging FIRs and penalizing those setting waste material on fire in open.
On the Chief Minister’s direction, the LWMC and WASA have deployed “mist queen” vehicles for cleaning roads and smog remediation. A Mobile Control Unit (MCU) has also been activated for the elimination of smog at the Local Government and Community Development Department.
Now whatever the measures, the health experts believe that substantial exposure to harmful air quality leads to diseases like asthma, lung damage, bronchial infections, strokes, heart problems and reduced life expectancy. Particulate matters especially those less than (10 pm) pose serious health risks as they penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream in some cases.
According to reports, almost all major hospitals in the city like Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Sir Gangaram, Mayo, Mian Munshi, Ittefaq and other hospital received thousands of patients with respiratory and lung diseases during last year’s smoggy season.
“Exposure to such particles can have detrimental effects on lungs and heart,” said Dr. Adnan-ul-Qamar, Medical Superintendent Mian Munshi Hospital. “Scientific studies have also consistently linked particle pollution to exposure to a variety of diseases.”
In this context, he mentioned ailments like irregular heart rhythms, aggravated asthma, reduced lung function, increased respiratory symptoms like airway irritation, coughing and breathing and even premature death in individuals with heart or lung ailments.
Despite all measures by authorities, massive urbanization still remains a serious challenge and during the last couple of decades, Lahore has substantially lost tree cover area due to housing societies’ expansion and infrastructure development. Moreover, thousands smoke smoke-emitting vehicles could be seen roaming around besides pollutants oozing out of industrial units and burning of crop residue at fields along Lahore-Multan and Lahore-Islamabad motorways.
Therefore, since the major responsibility lies with the administration, there is a need to tighten the noose around ‘Baboos’ deputed at Districts and Tehsils surrounding Lahore for effective action against environmental law violators.
APP/nam/maz (APP Feature Service)