A thick smog has been persistently plaguing citizens of Lahore for over a week now, causing throat infections, headaches and breathing problems.
“I noticed the smog on my way to work last week. There was a haze in the skyline and buildings which are usually visible over long distances were no longer easy to spot,” Mehwish, an NGO worker, told MIT Technology Review Pakistan. “Within an hour, my migraine was triggered, my eyes began to ache and I developed an itch in my throat,” she said.
This is not the first time a thick layer of smog has blanketed the megapolis. Last year, scores of citizens had fallen ill because of the incessant pollution in the atmosphere. “Last year, I had horrible headaches because of the smog. I am very worried this year because we have a one-month-old baby,” said Saad, a photographer.
Aimen, a professor, felt that the situation situation had worsened this year. “Last year, it caused twitching in my eyes. Now I have the same twitching, an annoying dry cough and the smog has become a migraine trigger.”
The Met Department spokesman told TR Pakistan that the smog was likely to persist for another week. “There will be a dry spell for at least 10 days, during which no rain or winds are forecasted.”
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He said temperatures would continue to drop as low as 15 degrees celsius.
Medical experts have urged citizens to take precautionary measures while commuting. “People should cover their mouths and noses and wear protective sunglasses,” said a doctor at Mayo Hospital. “One should also keep their windows closed to be on the safe side.”
Unlike last year when the provincial government was caught off guard, a policy has already been drafted this year to deal with smog.
The draft approved by the Punjab Environment Protection Council contains both short-term and long-term measures.
In the short-term, the EPD will collaborate with the Punjab Agriculture Department to prevent burning of staples in the open. The department will monitor burning activities using satellite data available through the Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission (SUPARCO) among other sources. This will ensure timely coordination with departments concerned to take remedial actions.
The policy draft states that the EPD will also work with the traffic police to take extraordinary measures to control traffic jams; direct factories not to burn plastic, wood or rubber for fuel.
As many as 103 factories have already been shut down around Lahore because they were not controlling carbon emissions.
Municipalities and corporations will also be asked to ensure cleanliness. The policy draft states that action will be taken against those found burning garbage.
Some of the long-term measures identified in the policy are introduction of low-sulphur fuels; building capacity of relevant government agencies to monitor air pollution; development of woodlands around major cities; promotion of environment-friendly technologies in industries, most notably in cement, steel, and thermal power sectors; and to seek addition of relevant environmental concerns to the agenda of bilateral and multilateral talks between Pakistan and India, to tackle regional sources of smog in the province.