Lahore’s Smog Reaches Dangerously High Levels, Citizens Report Smoke Indoors
Smog in Punjab’s capital of Lahore has touched dangerously high levels, with the quality of air registering ‘hazardous’ in the Air Quality Index, with people even reporting that there houses were filled with smoke. According to Air Visual, an international air pollution monitoring body, a ‘hazardous’ level of air poses a serious risk of respiratory effects to the general public, and people are strongly advised to stay indoors.
On Wednesday night, one of Lahore’s air quality monitors placed at the United States Consulate General reported an alarming AQI and PM2.5 air pollution of 500. Above an AQI of 200, the air is considered ‘very unhealthy’ and people are advised to wear a mask.
Alert: At this time, the U.S. Consulate General Lahore’s AQI monitor is reporting PM2.5 pollutants at over 500. Other monitors in the city are reporting even higher levels.
This is an extremely hazardous level.#LahoreSmog
— US Consulate Lahore (@USCGLahore) November 6, 2019
According to the New York State Health Department, PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, is an air pollutant consisting of particles that travel deeply into the respiratory tract, causing health complications ranging from eye, nose and lung irritation to asthma and heart diseases.
As Lahore became covered in a thick layer of smog last night, people took to social media to express their concern and frustration over the matter. Social media was rife with people reporting burning eyes, pain in lungs, and an inability to stay outdoors for long periods.
A Twitter user shared a video of security guards stationed in the open air in Gulberg, lamenting how people working outdoors were vulnerable in this situation. In the video, the interviewer can be heard saying that the eyes of the guards were extremely red, with onlookers stating that the air was hurting their lungs and smelled like diesel fumes.
Recorded last night, just shows how people working outdoors including security staff are so much more vulnerable to this killer #smoginlahore #SmogWaliTabdeeli … For goodness sake take some action @UsmanAKBuzdar & @GOPunjabPK before it's too late, which it already is. pic.twitter.com/bWOd2uhOpy
— Fraz (@NthngMtrs) November 7, 2019
Academic and activist Ammar Ali Jan took to Twitter to state how Lahore was unbearable, and how the elements of life had turned into vehicles of death. He also called for a discussion on the environmental costs of the development models we were following.
Lahore is unbearable right now. The smog is impossible to escape.
We destroyed our water resources. Now our air is hazardous. We have turned elements of life into vehicles of death.
Urgent discussion needed on environmental costs of our developmental models. #SmogApocalypse
— Ammar Ali Jan (@ammaralijan) November 6, 2019
Another user pointed out the fact that the air quality was poor even in places like the ‘lush green’ Canal Road, and how she was even wearing a mask indoors.
Used to think the lush green Campus life around the Canal Road would be of some little comfort in the #smog but apparently I am choking on this limited air and wearing a mask indoors.
Thankyou #Lahore, I just came to study.
— Rida Akhtar (@RidaAkhtar_) November 6, 2019
People even reported that they were not safe inside their houses. A Twitter user stated that smoke had filled up her house effecting her eyes and making her head heavy.
I can hardly breathe ! A grey acrid smoke has filled up the whole house. Eyes burning and head extremely heavy. If adults are in this situation how will kids survive?@aminattock @ImranKhanPTI #SmoginLahore
— aneela shah (@eela5) November 6, 2019
One user even reported that he woke up in alarm, supposedly under the impression that the smoke was coming from inside the house, only to find out that the window was open.
Woke up frantically to the smell of smoke in my room. Ran outside to check on the kitchen & rest of the house – turns out someone just left the window open.
– the wind is carrying smoke from all over the place. #Lahore #LahoreSmog pic.twitter.com/Ge0GWebNA0
— Syed M. Saad Ahsan (@saadahsan) November 6, 2019
Other people also reported that there was no respite from the poor air quality even inside their homes.
Honestly thought someone burned leaves or a pile of garbage in our area as smoke came running inside the house a couple hours ago. The whole house smells & burning eyes. This is unacceptable! @zartajgulwazir #Lahore #SmogInLahore https://t.co/TKJy28gyOB
— Fizzah Rizvi (@FizzahRizvi) November 6, 2019
One user was of the opinion that it had never been this hard to breath in Lahore and the situation was nothing short of a catastrophe.
Thick #smog has covered the entire city in just a matter of hours. It has never been this hard to breath in Lahore. This is nothing less than a catastrophe. Climate change is real.@zartajgulwazir
— خلائی مخلوق (@zubairraz1) November 6, 2019
The air quality was so bad that it necessitated a comparison with the Chernobyl disaster, with one user attributing the situation to the government’s negligence.
The smog situation in Lahore reminds me of Chernobyl. Innocent people breathing in toxic chemicals which had devastating effects in the short and long term. And why did it happen? Because of gross government negligence. WAKE UP @ PTI GOVERNMENT!!!!!!!
— rameeza (@Rameezay) November 6, 2019
As reports of an extreme deterioration of air quality started making the rounds, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Dar stated that due to the sudden increase in smog, schools would be closed, adding the situation was being closely monitored. He added that the administration had been tasked to escalate measures against factors contributing to smog.
Due to sudden increase in smog, all schools in Lahore will remain closed tomorrow.
We are closely monitoring the #LahoreSmog situation.
Administration is already on high alert and have tasked them to escalate actions against crop burning and other factors that contribute to smog
— Usman Buzdar (@UsmanAKBuzdar) November 6, 2019
The chief minister’s response was not totally welcomed by people. Amnesty International Deputy South Asia Director Omar Warraich pointed out in response to CM Buzdar’s tweet that the government had 15 months to deal with the issue, and that there was nothing sudden about this crisis.
You had 15 months to deal with this. There’s nothing ‘sudden’ about this environmental crisis that is violating people’s human rights to education, health and even life. #LahoreSmog https://t.co/IcG9iumHeF
— Omar Waraich (@OmarWaraich) November 6, 2019
A social media user expressed the hope that in the next election, people would vote on the basis of who could fight Lahore’s smog.
My hope is that next election the residents of Lahore will vote for those with plans for fighting #LahoreSmog and the Karachi folks for those with a plan to tackle the solid waste and water crisis! Many of us probably didn’t imagine these issues becoming critical in our lifetime!
— Taimur Malik (@taimur_malik) November 6, 2019
Last week, Federal Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir had stated that the reports of poor air quality in Lahore were false and the pollution was due to the increasing number of vehicles in the city due to the presence of Azadi March participants.