Smog has turned the provincial metropolis into a ‘poisonous gas chamber’ where citizens were facing serious health problems as the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 255.

Tuesday was the third consecutive day when Lahore was on top of the world’s most polluted cities. The remaining top polluted cities after Lahore were Delhi, (237), Beijing, (178), Dhaka, (157), Mumbai, (154), Karachi, (153), Chengdu, (153), Jakarta, (153), Istanbul, T (146) and Kuwait City, (146). The sudden increase in smog has raised serious questions over the performance of the provincial government, district administration, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environmental Protection Department (EPD), which seemed helpless in the implementation of the SOPs to counter smog.Sources in the district administration claimed that on Tuesday, the VVIP movement was very high in the city as the caretaker PM along with the caretaker CM visited various ongoing development projects due to which, various traffic signals were turned to manual and traffic was stopped and resulted in extra-vehicular emissions on the city roads.Sources in EPA revealed that a number of furnaces in northern Lahore were operating at night and were using sub-standard fuel such as rubber tyres, plastic and other materials while many other industries in different industrial estates of the city were also contributing to rising air pollution. Sources said that a very half-hearted campaign was started against smoky vehicles and EPA’s claims of using PSCA cameras to take action against smoke emitting vehicles was just a statement. Increase in fine particles (PM2.5) was the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in Lahore on Tuesday and several citizens interviewed by The News on roads claimed they were facing many health problems.Health experts said that the size of particles was directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems because they can go deep into the lungs and some may even get into bloodstream. ‘Exposure to such particles can affect both lungs and heart,’ said Dr Tariq Chishti, a general physician.He said numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.He advised that people with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults were the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure and they should remain indoor in smog.The News called EPA DG Zaheer Abbas who admitted that for the past three days the AQI of the provincial metropolis was very unhealthy. He, however, said the reading of web-based AQI data providers was faulty as they usually used low cost sensors, which can’t give actual reading. ‘We are going to introduce a complete air quality monitoring system with heaters,’ he said and maintained that the department was doing its best to combat smog. EPA DG said that present situation was a result of stubble burning, which will continue till the second week of November. He said Lahore was surrounded by agricultural areas and all the smoke come towards Lahore.On the other hand, Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa ordered that more number of mist vehicles must be used for sprinkling water on the roads. All the revenue teams and officers must focus the whole day on Wednesday on operations against stubble burning, he directed and added that all the officers would check the brick-kilns too and strict action would be taken against violation of instructions.He said that special teams must move in North Lahore and Mahmood Booti area and will check every plant and industrial unit. He called for separate report of operations from each team and officers. He directed that the industrial units running without emission control system must be sealed.He said with the help of Safe City cameras, traffic police must take action against every vehicle emitting smoke through special squads. He said Section 144 was in force to ban coverless trolleys, green waste, solid waste and crop burning.

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