Ahead of the province’s annual “fifth season,” government introduces measures to improve air quality, reduce pollution
The Punjab government on Thursday announced new measures to curb smog—referred to as Pakistan’s “fifth season”—and improve the province’s Air Quality Index (AQI), just a day after the provincial cabinet declared it a “calamity.”
A notification issued by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) stated that the AQI of Punjab, and especially capital Lahore, was already deteriorating from “satisfactory” to “moderately and poorly polluted.” It noted that smog causes difficulty in breathing, respiratory tract diseases, and heart-related ailments, which coupled with the threat of COVID-19 could exacerbate the province’s casualty rate.
Stressing that Pakistan was declared the world’s second most polluted country last year, the notification said that immediate remedial measures were required to curb further air quality deterioration.
The Punjab government has banned the following, with effect from Oct. 15, 2010, till further orders:
- Burning of any type of crop residue
- Vehicles emitting visible smoke and pollutants falling into inadmissible limits
- All industries working without emission control system and contributing to a deterioration in AQI
- All stone crushers operating without wet scrubbers
- Burning of all types of solid waste, tires, rubber, and plastics
- Sale and use of all types of substandard fuels
- All types of encroachments, which cause hindrance in the smooth flow of traffic on public roads including footpaths
- Any kind of parking which may cause hindrance in the smooth flow of traffic
- All types of activities without proper safeguard, which contribute in generating fugitive dust
- Uncovered and open dumping/storage of construction material
- Uncovered transportation of construction and other material like sand, mud, and cement
- Any unauthorized activity which may contribute to formation of smog
- For brick kilns: (i) All brick kilns built on old methodology shall be shuttered from Nov. 7, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020 (ii) All brick kilns built on zigzag methodology shall be allowed to operate as per SOPs devised by the Environment Protection Department (iii) All brick kilns have to be converted to the zigzag methodology by Dec. 31, 2020 (iv) No brick kiln built on methodology other than zigzag methodology will be allowed to operate after Dec. 31, 2020
The notification also directed all municipal authorities and waste management companies to sprinkle water on roads, streets and construction sites to curb “fugitive dust” from adding to the smog situation.
Last year, smog engulfed large swathes of Punjab, with the AQI in Lahore rising to hazardous levels on multiple occasions, prompting the government to shut down schools and advise citizens to stay indoors as much as possible.