The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday blamed the incumbent Punjab government for the prevailing smog situation in provincial capital Lahore and directed authorities to immediately declare a “smog emergency.”
Taking up pleas seeking the court’s intervention on the significant decline in Lahore’s air quality over the past week, Justice Shahid Karim directed the government against de-sealing factories emitting black smoke. He also directed Lahore Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhwa and other officers to visit schools and colleges and apprise students of the decision, while encouraging them to report to authorities about any factories that were continuing to pollute the atmosphere.
The court also directed the commissioner to initiate a crackdown against vehicles emitting black smoke and ordered him to execute repair work of underpasses after 12 a.m. at night rather than during the day, when it can cause traffic pile-ups, boosting pollution. “The government is responsible for the current situation of smog,” he observed, stressing on the administrators that they were in a position to take remedial measures. “Previously, the smog started to affect the city at the end of November, in December, but now it has started in October,” he remarked.
Ordering the immediate declaration of a smog emergency in Lahore, he said this was not a “personal” problem, but rather an issue for future generations. Justice Karim urged the commissioner to encourage citizens to prefer bicycles to motor vehicles, saying this could be achieved by providing bicycles on rent for minimal amounts. He then adjourned proceedings until Nov. 3.
Since Saturday, Lahore’s Air Quality Index has consistently been recorded above 200, at times crossing 400, making it the most polluted city on the planet. Rather than taking remedial measures, the caretaker Punjab government has blamed stubble burning in neighboring India, with Information Minister Amir Mir claiming corrective measures would be pointless as there is no wind to blow away pollutants. The government, however, has yet to take notice of stubble burning along the motorway, which is also boosting pollution. It has similarly failed to take any steps to reduce vehicular emissions.