LAHORE: Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabir of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday sought a reply from the Punjab Environmental Protection Department (EPD) on a petition challenging the authority's order of closing down some brick kilns causing smog and polluting the air.
Several petitioners approached the LHC contending the department's order to close down their brick kiln has ruined their business owing to which the families of the people linked to kiln business were suffering a lot.
They implored the Constitution of Pakistan does not permit to close someone’s business in the garb of aforesaid allegations. At this Justice Muzamil remarked whether they (petitioners) could guarantee the court that their brick kilns would not create smog. Justice Muzamil made it clear that they could not deprive the citizens of their rights.
The petitioners’ lawyer implored the court that their brick kilns were closed down on allegations of creating smog as well as air pollution. The petitioners contended the authority's order of closing the brick kilns was not justified and it may kindly be set aside. They also requested the court that an order be passed to restore their brick kilns.
A couple of days back, another citizen Munir Ahmad also filed a petition in the LHC seeking a direction for the authorities to take immediate steps to control smog in Punjab. The citizen had contended through his lawyer that Lahore was among 10 most polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality. In his petition, he maintained that the air pollution causes serious health problems including respiratory failures, lung and heart diseases.
The petitioner claimed that the data released by the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative (PAQI) showed the provincial capital recorded only two days of good air quality in 2017. He requested the court to direct the government to implement the statutory laws as well as mandatory rules in letter and spirit for the purpose of protecting the environment of all kinds. He also sought the court order for the necessary amendments in the laws so as to make the government departments compatible to deal with emergency situations.
On October 26, Justice Ayesha Malik had directed the Punjab government to produce the notification regarding appointment of Air Pollution Smog Commission constituted by the Supreme Court.
Justice Ayesha issued this order after it was told to the court that the supreme court had constituted another commission for the purpose of implementation of guidelines prepared by the smog commission formed earlier by the Lahore High Court in 2017.
The court was hearing a petition moved by PTI leader Walid Iqbal through his lawyer advocate Sheraz Zaka seeking implementation of recommendations made by the smog commission. Smog Commission chairman Dr Pervez Hassan submitted that the date for closure of brick kilns has been extended by another week.
The chairman said Punjab has been divided into three zones; green, yellow and red. Green zones were those where smoke emissions were minimum. No brick kilns will be sealed in such areas. Yellow zones are areas where there was moderate smoke emission. These areas would be monitored and analysed for abrupt weather changes. “Red zones are the areas where there is a large amount of smoke emission. All kilns using old and remote ways will be banned in these areas,” he explained. The chairman submitted that the directives of the Supreme Court would be implemented in letter and spirit.
The lawyer argued that the entire Punjab province was adversely affected by the spillover effects of smog but the chief secretary and secretary environment have failed to perform their statutory obligations. He requested the court to direct the chief secretary and the secretary environment to clamp down on the commercial activities of factories established in residential areas of Lahore. The court adjourned the hearing for December 16.