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Pakistan: Punjab provincial govt might impose COVID-like restrictions in Lahore to curb worsening pollution

Lahore ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The provincial government has mulled shutting down schools and markets on Wednesdays and operating government offices at 50% strength.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Lahore Published on: October 10, 2023 23:07 IST
Lahore worsening air pollution is due to unusual traffic
Image Source : PIXABAY/REPRESENTATIVE Lahore worsening air pollution is due to unusual traffic and emissions from factories.

The provincial government of Pakistan's Punjab is considering the imposition of COVID-like restrictions in Lahore to curb the worsening air pollution in the city, including a shutdown of all schools, markets and factories on Wednesdays.

Citing sources, Geo News reported that a new policy is likely to come in effect under which government departments will operate with 50% efficiency on Wednesdays and snap-checking will be carried out on weekends. 

Earlier it was reported that all schools, markets and offices will be closed on Wednesday (October 11). However, the Lahore Commissioner's Office said on Tuesday that they will remain open tomorrow and their closure was subject to approval from the provincial government.

"The proposal of work from home in educational institutions and offices will be submitted to the Punjab government and it will make a final decision in this regard," said the spokesperson for the commissioner's office.

What does the policy entail?

The provincial government has blamed the worsening air pollution on unusual traffic and emissions from factories that are contributing 7% to the pollution amid visible smog in the city. The highest level of smog was recorded from the first three days of last week.

According to sources, a suggestion has been passed to impose heavy fines on factories violating the shutdown policy and they will be shut down in case of continuous ignorance of the directives passed by the government.

Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa said the authorities will announce a work-from-home policy for two months to combat rising pollution in the Lahore Division. The commissioner said this after he along with CCPO Bilal Siddiqui met traders to discuss the proposal to keep markets closed on Wednesdays.

“Traders can open markets on Sundays if they want," the commissioner said, adding that they supported the measure to keep markets closed on Wednesdays.

Air pollution in Lahore

It is worth noticing that Lahore constantly ranks as one of the top polluted cities in the world. In 2022, Lahore became the world's worst polluted city, according to IQAir. Lahore's air quality worsened from 86.5 to 97.4 micrograms of PM 2.5 particles per cubic metre.

According to the News International, the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) in its Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) said that air pollution is the second greatest threat to human health in Pakistan, reducing 3.9 years of life on average. 

Pakistan is unable the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines of limiting the average annual PM 2.5 concentration to 5 micrograms per cubic metre. All of Pakistan's 240 million people live in areas that exceed the WHO guidelines. 

Punjab, Islamabad, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are the most polluted provinces of Pakistan. 

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