Lahore starts experiencing early signs of smog

Meanwhile, Punjab EPA keeps on rejecting air quality data released by private sources

A panic was witnessed among citizens on Tuesday due to a ‘smog-like’ situation that appeared early hours in the upper atmosphere of the provincial capital.

Amid the hazy atmosphere and decrease in temperature, citizens’ panic arose a day after the Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) admitted that city’s air quality was touching the hazardous level. “There are strong evidence of persistent deterioration in air quality index of the city,” notification stated.

However, it avoided to mention the source for reasons best known to its officials.

Without giving any proof on air quality index, PDMA ordered to ban smog causing activities; stubble burning, smoke emitting vehicles, industries without scrubber and other activities might contribute to the smog.

Punjab EPA was responsible to release the exact air quality data after measuring the pollution level in the province but it failed to do so for another year.

According to the US Consulate, the air quality index was 217 on Tuesday at Davis Road, recorded on the basis of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) which is far above the permissible level given in the Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS).

The US Consulate released AQI through its air quality monitoring station with a PM2.5 sensor, and can only be considered reliable for the surrounding areas of the building.

Besides the US Consulate, there are many other low cost air quality monitoring devices installed by citizens in different areas of the city and people can also google the AQI on their smart phones. The data released by such devices also shows high AQI in the city.

According to experts, though these devices can show the pollution level at the time of measuring the air quality but their data cannot be taken for issuing the AQI.

Having no authentic equipment to measure the air pollution with it, the Punjab EPA kept on rejecting the air quality data released by private sources.

Last year, agency wrote to the law enforcers to act against those disseminating the ‘fake’ AQI data.

Meanwhile, following the footsteps of previous years, a “game of meetings” has been started by different departments to deal with the situation.

A meeting was held yesterday in EPA Headquarters in Lahore where officials from Agriculture, Transport, Local Bodies departments, Lahore Deputy Commissioner were present to “discuss” the matter.

Samiullah Randhawa is a correspondent covering environment, climate change, food, water and ecology. He is an International Center For Journalists alumnus and a fellow at Kettering Foundation Ohio, USA. He has won two Agahi Awards for reporting on climate change and water crisis. He tweets @sami_randhawa and can be reached at samiullahfarid@gmail.com.

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