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October 20, 2020

Smog may increase virus deaths

Lahore

October 20, 2020

LAHORE:Deteriorating air quality due to smog may increase the death rate among the corona patients, which are again on rise especially in the provincial metropolis and generally across the province.

Following this situation, Relief Commissioner, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), issued a letter to all the divisional commissioners to strictly implement the SOPs regarding smog prevention.

In his letter issued on 15 October, the relief commissioner said that whereas, there is recorded evidence of persistent deterioration in the Air Quality Index of the city of Lahore in particular and Punjab in general, from satisfactory level to moderately and poorly polluted levels, which is likely to cause breathing discomfort, respiratory tract diseases, including asthma, besides heart related ailments amongst children and older adults specifically and the people of all age in general.

It added there was a continuous trend of new COVID-19 patients throughout the province and overlap of conducive conditions for respiratory tract diseases due to smog could exacerbate the casualty rate. It has been corroborated by the World Health Organisation that 4.2 million people die every year as a result of exposure to ambient air pollution and Pakistan was declared the second most polluted country during the year 2019, it added.

The letter stated that the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Lahore High Court had already directed the government to take necessary measures to control smog and the Punjab Cabinet, in its 36th meeting, declared smog a calamity under Section 3 of The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention & Relief), Act 1958, which has been notified vide Notification No. Smog-2020/10/Coord-1 dated 14.10.2020; hence it is mandatory to take all possible measures to contain and arrest the rapid deterioration of ambient Air Quality Index in territorial limits of the province. The relief commissioner announced that in his opinion there were sufficient grounds to proceed under Section 4 (2) (h) of The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention & Relief) Act 1958, as an immediate preventive and speedy remedy and the directions hereinafter appearing are necessary to ensure public safety of smog in the province of Punjab:

“Now therefore, I Babar Hayat Tarar, Relief Commissioner, Government of the Punjab, conserve lives and preempt and mitigate imminent threat in exercise of the powers vested in me under Section 4(2)(h) of The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention & Relief) Act, 1958, hereby order that there shall be a complete ban on the following activities in the territorial limits of the Province of the Punjab:

Burning of any type of crop residue, vehicles emitting visible smoke and pollutants, all industries working without emission control deteriorating Air Quality Index, all stone crushers operating without wet scrubbers, burning of all types of solid waste, tyres, rubber and plastics and use of all types of sub-standard fuels, all types of encroachments which hinder the smooth flow of traffic on public roads, including footpaths, any kind of parking which may hamper 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 unauthorised activity which may contribute to formation of smog.

For brick-kilns, the letter stated that all kilns built on old methodology shall not be allowed to operate wef 7 November, 2020 to 31 December, 2020, as per the order dated 17.09.2020 passed in WP No. 227807/2018 by the Lahore High Court. All kilns built on zigzag methodology shall be allowed to operate as per SOPs devised by Environment Protection Department, Punjab, all kilns have to be converted to zigzag methodology by 31 December, 2020 as per notification issued by Environment Protection Department, Punjab. No kiln built on methodology other than zigzag methodology will be allowed to operate after 31 December, 2020.

The letter stated that municipal offences under clauses 22 and 23 of Schedule 15 of Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 which relate to unlawful use of public space, contributing to pollution, will be dealt with under the Act ibid and all the municipal authorities and waste management companies shall ensure water sprinkling on roads, streets and construction sites emanating fugitive dust.

This order shall remain in force in the entire province of Punjab with effect from 15 October until further orders. The order shall be given wide publicity in official Gazette, daily newspapers, broadcasting through Radio Pakistan, state TV, other TV channels as news item as well as social media for information of the general public, the letter concluded.