No respite till rain: Smog’s here to stay

PMD chief says conditions may persist till November-end

Photo Abid Nawaz/Ali Ousat November 02, 2016
Smog hangs in the air around Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/EXPRESS

LAHORE: The thick blanket of fog, or rather smog, in Punjab is here to stay – at least till it rains. The smog has settled over the province in the past few days, reducing visibility in a few areas to nearly zero. Apart from endangering motorists, smog is a health hazard as well.

Smog can cause or worsen health problems such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and respiratory problems as well as eye irritation and reducing resistance to colds. The ozone in smog also inhibits plant growth and can damage crops and plants.

While normally Punjab experiences foggy weather in December, the environmental phenomenon is unusual this early. Lahore and its adjoining districts have not received rain since October. The formation of smog – a combination of smoke and fog – may be attributed to rising pollution levels as well as accumulation of dust from the ongoing construction projects.

“Smog contains solid particles of dust as well as industrial and vehicular pollutants. It is hazardous for health and people must wear masks while going outside,” said Pakistan Metrological Department Director-General Ghullam Rasool while talking to The Express Tribune.

He said the conditions could persist till the end of November as there were minute chances of rain during the month. Immediately after rainfall, the smog will disappear but may re-emerge after the rainfall.

Dr Salman Kazmi, a physician at Mayo Hospital, believes the government is to blame for permitting massive industrialisation around Lahore without taking into consideration environmental safety protocols.

“Lahore has turned into a gas chamber with the rising prevalence of dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide,” he said, advising people to wear masks and protective glasses while going out.

The heavy smog, Dr Salman adds, could create serious breathing ailments and eye infections, and might trigger asthma attacks. “People must take all precautionary measures and immediately consult qualified doctors in case of emergency,” he said.

Rashid Khan, who shifted to Lahore from Karachi just a week ago, told The Express Tribune that he had just heard about smog but never experienced it. “My eyes are irritating and I feel like suffocating,” he said. “I am seriously thinking of going back to Karachi.”

A spokesperson of Environmental Protection Agency said the amount of emissions has shot up in Lahore owing to massive traffic jams in different areas of Lahore and industrial pollution. The ongoing development works on different projects and a significant decline in rainfall has also played a role in creating smog, he said.

The situation, he added, will remain the same until the development projects are completed and the traffic police take extraordinary measures to maintain the flow of vehicles.

The EPA officer believed the Metro bus and the upcoming Orange Line project would definitely help overcoming the vehicular pollution. “Industries developed on a massive large scale near northern Lahore are a main cause of air pollution. We have already recommended them on taking environmental safety protocols,” he said.

Against the policies of the government, a large number of environmentalists under the banner of a non-profit organisation ‘Taana Baana’ has announced holding a demonstration outside the EPA office.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2016.



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