Pakistan has ordered that private workplaces and schools in Lahore remain closed on Mondays in the hope that a three-day weekend may aid in the reduction of harmful pollution levels in the country's second-largest metropolis.
The decision, issued by Punjab relief commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar, is intended to operate "as a preventive and expeditious remedy" during the winter pollution season, which begins on 15 January.
An air quality monitor proclaimed Lahore briefly the most polluted city in the world earlier on Wednesday, as locals complained of shortness of breath, stinging eyes, and nausea caused by the thick, bitter pollution.
According to IQAir, the Swiss technology company that operates the AirVisual monitoring platform, the city's air quality index was 348 last week, much over the hazardous level of 300. Lahore has since been surpassed by Delhi, India, which is now rated 422. The figure is derived from an estimate of the concentrations of numerous contaminants in the air.
From Karachi to Lahore, Pakistan has experienced the highest levels of air pollution in recent years, as a combination of low-grade diesel emissions, smoke from seasonal crop burn-off, and cooler winter temperatures merge into thick clouds of smog.
As air pollution worsened and the city became uninhabitable, anxious people petitioned the government in Lahore's courts to take action against the smog, a mixture of smoke and fog.
Abubaker Umer, a communication professional and Lahore resident, said he stopped going for morning walks and relocated his elderly parents because they were susceptible to air pollution. Umer claims that his skin allergy and throat irritation have gotten worse in the short weeks since the city was inundated with haze.
"When you open a window or step outside, there is no sky visible. "There is smog everywhere," he stated. "We breathe smog, and harmful air pollution has become ingrained in our lives and bodies. The government must do more than close educational institutions; Lahore has degenerated into an uninhabitable metropolis."
He stated that while he can work from home, over a million individuals do not. "People don't even wear masks, and they have no idea how dangerous the weather is," he continued. They lack awareness, but the government must raise awareness and develop solutions."
Dr. Aamir Iqbal, a private physician in Lahore specializing in pulmonary medicine, has observed his patients' symptoms deteriorate. "The smog is making it extremely difficult for people to breathe and causing throat irritation, eye irritation, and the weather is hazardous for people who have lung problems or certain other diseases." I have advised several of my patients not to venture out."
Pakistanis are expected to lose two years of life on average as a result of air pollution. However, Lahore suffers the most, with the typical resident losing 5.3 years of life, according to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's air quality index report.
Fawad Chaudhry, the information minister, has blamed previous administrations for Lahore's haze. "We see Lahore engulfed in fog every winter as a result of the city's previous rulers cutting trees to erect a concrete jungle, which has had a detrimental effect on the city's green cover and surroundings," he remarked on Saturday.
Amnesty International's Rimmel Mohydin, a South Asia analyst, said the smog situation constituted a human rights concern since it jeopardized the right to health. "No one's health should be jeopardized by the air they breathe. If the expertise is available, the implications are serious, and the proof of harm is increasing, the government should move quickly to initiate a smog protection protocol."
Malik Amin Aslam, the prime minister's climate change adviser, said the administration considered the pollution action committee's proposals. "We are making every effort," he stated.
Aslam stated that the smog problem would remain unsolved without regional cooperation between India and Pakistan, as crops on the opposite side of the border are burned. "We made this request for regional countries to engage in dialogue during Cop26" (climate summit). Hopefully, it will occur."
However, Rafay Alam, a lawyer and environmental activist, stated that while engagement with India and regional countries is necessary, Pakistan's neighbors cannot blame the haze.
"There is no quick fix for this problem. The government must enhance fuel quality, transition to renewable energy, and equip industry with pollution control systems."