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Lahore’s Smog Reaches Dangerously High Levels, Citizens Report Smoke Indoors

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Other people also reported that there was no respite from the poor air quality even inside their homes.

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.

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.

Government Response

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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