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November 2, 2019

Smog enters hazardous category

Lahore

November 2, 2019

LAHORE:The level of smog, presently engulfing the provincial metropolis, has entered into the category of ‘hazardous’ with 391 Air Quality Index (AQI) points with increased level of PM2.5 posing serious health issues for the citizens but the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Punjab has no intention to aware the general public about it.

In our neighbourhood Delhi, the government is distributing face masks among the citizens especially school children to save them from smog whereas in Lahore, no such campaign was launched or even crafted. “Such drives creates panic among the citizens and the present situation is not such bad where we need to distribute face masks among the citizens,” said Naseemur Rehman, senior officials and spokesperson for EPD.

According to the figures of US Embassy in Lahore, real time AQI in Lahore on Friday noon was 391, which was in hazardous category. As per another site airvisual.com, the AQI in Lahore on Friday was 319 whereas as per EPD figure the AQI was 185.

Environment experts said that 0-50 AQI is considered “good” in which air quality is satisfactory and poses little or no health risk, 51-100 AQI is considered “moderate” in which air quality is acceptable and poses little health risk. Sensitive individuals should avoid outdoor activity as they may experience respiratory symptoms.

The AQI between 101 to 150 is termed “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” in which the general public and sensitive individuals in particular are at risk to experience irritation and respiratory problems. Environmental experts said that the general public should greatly reduce outdoor exertion. Sensitive people should avoid outdoor activity and should take care to wear a pollution mask outdoors. Ventilation is discouraged. Air purifiers should be turned on if indoor air quality is unhealthy.

The AQI between 151-200 is termed “Unhealthy”, which increased likelihood of adverse effects and aggravation to the heart and lungs among the general public - particularly for sensitive groups. Everyone should avoid outdoor exercise and take care to wear a pollution mask outdoors. Ventilation is discouraged. Air purifiers should be turned on.

The AQI between 201-300 is termed “Very Unhealthy,” which warned that the general public would be noticeably affected. Sensitive groups will experience reduced endurance in activities. These individuals should remain indoors and restrict activities. Everyone should avoid outdoor exercise and take care to wear a pollution mask outdoors.

The experts said AQI between 301-500+ is called “Hazardous,” which warned that the people and sensitive groups are at high risk to experience strong irritations and adverse health effects that could trigger other illnesses. Everyone should avoid exercise and remain indoors. Experts said everyone should avoid outdoor exercise and take care to wear a pollution mask outdoors. Ventilation is discouraged. Air purifiers should be turned on.

It is pertinent to mention that the EPD has also failed to take any practical measures against the factors contributing towards the smog, which included around 30 percent vehicular pollution, 30 to 35 percent brick kilns and 35 percent industrial pollution. The department’s senior hierarchy presented ‘All is Well’ report to the chief minister while sitting in air-conditioned offices holding press conferences, meetings and meaningless workshops. In actual, over 3,000 kilns are emitting hazardous smoke into the sky in the province. Out of these 3,000 kilns only 495 have installed zigzag technology but interestingly only four to five percent of these are operating the kilns with this technology. Ironically no practical training for kiln workers is available.

Similarly, steel furnaces, steel re-rolling mills and other smoke-emitting industrial units operating in Lahore, Sheikhupura and Gujranwala are openly using rubber, plastic and other material for burning purposes, which is very harmful to human lives. And this is going on right under the nose of the EPD teams. This can be proved with the fact that in Gujranwala over 70 Steel Furnaces are working out of which only One has installed scrubbers; in Lahore, 20 mills out of 34 have installed scrubbers and in Sheikhupura, 23 mills out of 32 installed scrubbers to control air pollution.

Vehicular traffic is the third major cause of smog but no practical measure has been taken to minimise pollution emitted by vehicles.

In New Delhi, all construction has been halted for a week and fireworks banned but in Lahore, patchwork and road construction works are going on. LDA contractors are not sprinkling water on under-construction roads properly due to which the level of pm 2.5 is increasing every day.

Dr Tariq Chishti, a general physician said that the levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM2.5) that enter deep into the lungs are over 268 micrograms per cubic metre in the city. He said as per the WHO recommends that the PM2.5 levels should not be more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre on average in 24 hours.

Naseemur Rehman, EPD Director while talking with The News said that presently wind direction is towards India; therefore, comparing Lahore with Delhi is not accurate and situation in Delhi was much grave than Lahore. He said the department has started pre-Smog activities in September by issuing notices to all smoke emitting vehicles and conducting extensive meetings with brick kiln and other government departments.

He admitted that Gujranwala was a trouble area but the department has already started working to control smoke emitted by industrial units there. He said under the Punjab government’s smog action plan, EPD was assigned to take measures against the smoke-emitting kilns and industrial units. Over a question that why the department has not started an extensive public awareness campaign so that the citizens could take appropriate measures to save themselves from negative effects of smog, he said the department had carried out many educational drives. Over a question of distributing face masks, he said this may create panic so the district governments were assigned to be prepared so the masks will be distributed at appropriate time.

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