LAHORE - Declaring smog a calamity, the Punjab government on Tuesday imposed an environmental emergency in Lahore and other cities of the province.
Taking notice of Lahore gaining top position on the air quality index, the Punjab Chief Minister Ch Parvez Elahi has ordered an effective implementation of the plan designed to reduce smog and said that action should be taken to control the factors causing smog.
While stressing to ensure effective implementation of the ban on burning crop residues across Punjab, the CM directed the EPD, transport, industries departments and administrative officers to go to the field as any failure to implement the ongoing SOPs to reduce smog will not be tolerated.
He said that indiscriminate action should be taken against those who set fire to crop residues. Legal action should also be continued against smog-emitting vehicles, he added. He said that the anti-smog squad should regularly check smog-emitting vehicles in the city. Anti-smog squad should ensure checking of vehicles at the entrances of Lahore city. The chief minister said that farmers will be provided with a modern harvester “Hepper Seed” to destroy crop residues. Transfer of all brick kilns to zigzag technology should also be ensured, he further said.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government has decided to bring the provincial environmental protection policy in line with the latest international standards.
During a meeting of the Punjab Environment Protection Council chaired by the Provincial Environment Protection Minister Mohammad Basharat Raja in the Civil Secretariat, consideration was given to the establishment of car free zones in Lahore and the setting up of traffic days there.
It was suggested that more and more large-leaved trees should be planted in the city as such plants help in curbing the spread of dust. Secretary Protection Punjab Environment Usman Ali Khan, Director General Zeeshan Sikandar and other members attended the meeting.
Chairman Council Muhammad Basharat Raja directed that the instructions of Lahore High Court must be taken into account in the policy making process related to the environment and the flaws found in the standards set earlier should be removed. He said that this year’s smog situation is better than last year, but he warned that the risks of environmental pollution may increase in the coming years due to population growth. He directed that the media should be informed about the measures related to environment protection on a daily basis. He said that we are bound to implement the commitments made in international conventions including COP 26.
Punjab Environment Protection Council suggested that vehicles older than 30 years should be banned in Lahore from October to December and the use of electric public transport should be encouraged. Environment Protection Minister Mohammad Basharat Raja said that obstacles in the use of electric vehicles will have to be removed. The council suggested restricting the establishment of industries in Punjab only to designated estates and parks, while expressing concern over cleanliness without sprinkling water on roads. Muhammad Basharat Raja said that before approving the new policy, it should be given more thought and the concerned departments should be taken into the loop. He said that the secretaries of the relevant departments should come in the next meeting of the council so that effective measures can be suggested.