With Lahore once more shrouded in smog, endangering public health, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday assured the Punjab government he will take up the issue with India at a diplomatic level.
Chairing a meeting of the provincial cabinet, Kakar was informed by interim Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi that the primary reason for the decline in air quality was the burning of crop stubble in Indian Punjab, with wind patterns driving the pollution across the border. Addressing media after the meeting, interim Punjab Information Minister Aamir Mir said the government had no plans to shutter schools or impose work-from-home policies in Lahore, as “there will be minimal wind this week and no break will help reduce pollution.”
Despite the interim chief minister’s claims, however, several environmental experts maintain that a large portion of Lahore’s air pollution is due to vehicular emissions, which the government has failed to address. This, they say, is exacerbated by low-quality fuel, as its use boosts pollutants in the atmosphere. Authorities have also failed to consider the stubble burning of crops in Lahore’s outskirts, which further reduces air quality levels.
According to IQAir, which collects real-time air quality and air pollution data, Lahore has ranked the most polluted city in the world for three consecutive days. With AQI ratings exceeding 250, the city’s residents are breathing in air that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers, at best, “very unhealthy.” This has already seen the provincial government declaring an emergency in hospitals, as complaints of throat irritation and breathing difficulties mount, especially among vulnerable populations.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) has been hearing petitions against smog for several months and had directed the provincial government to halt construction; improve fuel quality; and take action against vehicles with excessive emissions. However, despite earlier promising to implement these steps, the provincial government has followed in the footsteps of its predecessors in ignoring the crisis.