LAHORE: As skies clear after roughly two weeks of the smoke infested fog, the Punjab Environment Protection Department claims the smog has finally dissipated over most of the province.
However, several districts of the province were reportedly still enveloped by smog. At the same time, independent sources have refused to verify the claims made by the EPD.
Director Monitoring Lab and Implementation (ML&I) Tauqeer Ahmad Qureshi said that the smog has dissipated for this year. The Punjab government took aggressive measures to bring down the level of pollution in the entire province.
Sharing details of the measures, he said that 175 pollution causing units have been sealed and 22 FIRs registered. A ban was also imposed on burning of rice stubble. About 151 FIRs were registered against violators and 43 people were arrested. Similarly, around 15,718 vehicles causing pollution challaned and 1,170 vehicles impounded. For controlling fugitive dust, 13 sites were issued notices and eight were closed for none compliance.
Qureshi said other than these measures, they have been monitoring air from six air quality monitoring units. “With the support of the provincial government, we will try and import more of these air quality monitoring systems.”
He said currently six units were installed in Lahore. The above-mentioned measures improved the air quality in the city, he added. “This clearing of smog from Punjab was a natural phenomenon. We will continue taking these aggressive measures to prevent smog next year.” Qureshi said that November 5 was the worst day of the last smog spell.
Some officials of the EPD complained of the shortage of funds and staff, claiming the department was the most neglected official body in the province. They said new regulations for strict and proper enforcement were required for the active working of the department. The officials said the department had hired a consultant to review the existing laws and propose new regulations. They said that multiple departments needed to be onboard for the effective working of EPD.
Tauqeer Ahmad Qureshi further claimed that several measures had been being taken to reduce pollution in the province. He said that they were introducing a new style of brick kilns which emitted less smoke and were more efficient.
He said that they would also be getting these air quality monitoring systems installed in industries of the province to get a real time data of their emissions. He said that with all the data they will compile from their own monitoring units and monitoring units installed at industrial units in Punjab; they will be able to determine the actual factors contributing to a polluted environment. He said that they were also into the later stages of a steel foundry shifting project. He said that under this project, roughly 400 foundries would be moved out of Lahore, Sheikhurpura and Gujrainwala.
It is also important to mention here that similar to leading car manufacturer of Pakistan, EPD also believes that oil refineries were supplying substandard fuel in the market. They said that both diesel and petrol of low quality and greatly contributed to the smog.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2017.