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Construction work, vehicular emissions compound Lahore’s smog problem

WWF-Pakistan says halving staff temporary solution, calls for implementing smog commission’s recommendations

Amid a hazardous air quality, irresponsible construction work continues in different areas of Lahore while traffic congestions on several roads adds to the already heavily polluted air, Minute Mirror observed on Friday.

In compliance with a Lahore High Court (LHC) order, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has issued orders to halve staff in all offices of companies, private sectors and individuals within the territorial limits of the city. However, World Wide Fund (WWF)-Pakistan has disagreed with the decision of halving staff, saying it was not a sustainable solution.

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Talking to Minute Mirror, WWF-Pakistan Director General Hammad Naqi said that the smog commission had in its report recommended several suggestions, which were viable to combat air pollution. “Halving the staff can provide a temporary relief but it cannot be considered as a sustainable solution to reduce the emissions,” Naqi said, adding that the compound of vehicles, industries and emissions from waste burning were the major factors, which could be minimized by implementing the smog commission’s recommendations.

At a time when Lahore has become the focus of the world owing to its poor air quality, authorities seem to be least bothered to control the unabated dust – a major factor behind smog that is being caused by construction activities. Punjab Environmental Protection Department (EPD) on Tuesday wrote to authorities concerned to halt the construction work and efficiently manage traffic across the province, especially in Lahore. PDMA had already called for placing curbs on irresponsible construction work and smoke-emitting vehicles in the city.

Besides different ongoing government projects, hundreds and thousands of houses are being built in different areas of Lahore. Despite clear directions from EPD and PDMA all the construction activities continue in full swing, contributing huge amounts of dust to the city’s air. Earlier, construction sites were ordered to adopt measures to control the dust but no compliance followed by the builders.

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A contractor building a house in Nespak Society on Canal Road who continues his work without adopting any preventive measure, said that he had not received any direction by any authority to adopt any measure. Talking to this correspondent, he said that it was hard to stop work in the middle and added that dust could not be avoided whenever there was any construction activity, even if any preventive measure was taken.

Like Nespak Society, where dozens of houses have been under construction, similar situation could be witnessed in all the societies and localities within the city. Besides the ongoing constructions, the vehicles transporting the construction materials do so in an irresponsible manner without covering the construction material like sand and soil, which blows off them as they go along, polluting not just the air but also leaving a trail on the road.

Moreover, one of the major smog-causing factors, smoke-emitting vehicles, could also not be reduced, despite several actions taken by the authorities in the last two weeks. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official, vehicles cause around 45 percent of pollution in Lahore. Despite the persistent hazardous air quality in the city, authorities were reluctant to ban heavy traffic in the city that is being seen at night.

To combat smog, Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) sprinkles roads with water, but according to its spokesperson, it blows back into the air when water dries up. In orders issued by Punjab Relief Commissioner Babar Hayyat Tarrar, all the administrative secretaries have been directed to make a strategy to reduce the use of their department’s vehicles by up to 50 percent till January 15. The order further stated that all the educational institutes would ensure the increase of buses and vans by up to 50 percent for pick and drop of students.



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