LAHORE: Pakistan’s provincial administration of Punjab was forced to close all schools in Lahore on Thursday, as the city was engulfed by smog.
“Lahore is among the top 10 most polluted cities in the world, according to Air Visual,” Nazifa Butt, climate manager at World Wildlife Fund Pakistan, told Arab News. “The ideal range for good air quality is between zero and 100. Lahore’s air quality went beyond 600 on Nov. 6, causing significant concern.”
Air Visual is an organization that was set up in 2015 to monitor air pollution. The hazardous levels compelled the province’s chief minister, Usman Buzdar, to announce the closure of schools on Thursday in a Twitter post. “Due to the sudden increase in smog, all schools in Lahore will remain closed tomorrow (Thursday),” he tweeted on Wednesday night.
The Punjab Environment Department blamed Indian farmers for the situation, citing the city’s location on the country’s eastern border.
“The smog increased in Lahore due to the burning of residues of produce in Indian cultivated areas and the changing direction of the wind,” said an official handout issued by the chief minister’s secretariat on Thursday.
Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore is no stranger to thick layers of smog that hang all over the city in winter.
The country’s second largest metropolis suffers due to smoke emissions from dozens of brick kilns and mills located in and around its neighborhoods.
The authorities burn all garbage produced in the city, and many farmers set rice stubbles on fire before ploughing their fields. Lahore has also lost a significant number of trees as it has expanded.
Experts believe the poor air quality mostly affects the health of children and elderly people.
“There are 4.32 million students in Lahore who are only enrolled in private schools,” said Kashif Mirza, president of the Private Schools Association.
“Last night (Wednesday), the smog situation became extremely bad and there was a concern it could pose a threat to children’s health. However, the situation improved due to short intervals of rain that brought down the level of pollution somewhat.”
“Be that as it may, people are suffering from diseases related to the chest and throat,” Dr. Saleem Shahzad Cheema told Arab News.
“Children are the most vulnerable residents of the city. In the last three hours, we have treated more than 50 people, 35 of them children. We are hoping that the situation will get better, though, in the next few days since a few rain spells may minimize the smog level.”