Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Wednesday announced that both public and private schools and offices in Lahore would remain closed on Saturday, Nov. 18, as part of measures to curtail smog in the provincial capital.
Over the past week, the air quality index of Lahore has ranged between “unhealthy” and “hazardous,” prompting the Lahore High Court to direct the government to take urgent steps, including the closure of schools and colleges on Saturday to reduce traffic and its attendant vehicular emissions. The government had attempted to reduce the air pollution with a four-day holiday last week, but it backtracked on its plans after a brief spell of rain reduced smog, countering the effort.
In the press conference after a meeting of the caretaker provincial cabinet, Naqvi said markets would also remain closed in Lahore until 3 p.m. this Saturday. He said the government would install air filtration units in 12 areas of Lahore to combat smog, adding a high-level Environmental Commission led by the Punjab chief secretary was also examining means to produce artificial rain. In this regard, he continued, an invitation had also been extended to Chinese experts who had helped end smog in Beijing.
Noting that the largest contributor to smog was air pollution caused by vehicular emissions, the caretaker said the government would offer free registration for rickshaws over the next 30 days, after which a crackdown would be initiated against any unregistered vehicles.
Summarizing steps already taken to curtail air pollution, he said the Environment Department had sealed 3,495 industrial units; registered over 2,000 FIRs; and issued fines of Rs. 22 million. Similarly, he said, police had imposed fines of Rs. 21 million on polluting vehicles, while the Transport Department had imposed fines of Rs. 4 million. Approximately 80,000 polluting vehicles have been seized, he added. Urging traders to cooperate with the government’s drive to curb smog, he said no one in the government wanted to impact business activities.
Referring to the stubble burning of farmers, which is believed to be a major contributor of smog, Naqvi said farmers would be supporting in purchasing modern machinery to tackle crop residues.