2nd November 2016 was an ordinary Wednesday morning until dwellers of Lahore detected a hostile force in the air. The city was cloaked in an enormous cloud of smoke which was causing the residents to suffer from various sensory dilemmas such as itchy throats, blurry visions, burning eyes and breathing difficulties due to the acrid smell that dominated their surroundings. The visibility on roads reduced significantly, leading to the temporary closure of the motorway. Considerable apprehension sparked as everyone tried to speculate the reason behind the post apocalyptic scene unfolding. Was it an aftermath of the mid-term exams? Was it the sign of an extraterrestrial happening? The most popular and accurate presumption was as follows:
Lahore was experiencing an environmental catastrophe: the smog.
Smog is a product of fog and pollutants in the air. It is a dangerous environmental hazard which can cause health problems ranging from minor irritation and cold to serious respiratory and cardiac ailments. Generally, it occurs due to increased harmful emission from motor vehicles, urban development and industrial discharge.It is also hard for drones and quadcopters to fly. But the authorities at the Punjab Environment Protection Agency blamed this current permanent blanket on the lack of rain and the unchecked celebration of Diwali using excess firecrackers in New Dehli, India. Both Dehli and Lahore have been in the top ten most polluted cities of the world since 2014. No appropriate action has been taken to tackle the problems of air pollution in either city, causing an outrage in the public. The lack of equipment and set up to check for pollution has brought the competence of the Punjab Environment Protection Agency into question as a protest was held in the Lahore Qadaffi Stadium on 3rd November 2016 by students who demanded “the right to breathe clean air”.
Meanwhile the Pakistan Meteorological Department predicted the smog to last for five days. While most countries announce holidays to help reduce direct exposure to the smog, the Punjab government has failed to acknowledge its need. Hence, individual preemptive measures in order to evade the harmful consequences are necessary. Avoiding outdoors, wearing face masks, drinking significant amount of water and driving carefully are some ways to dampen the effects of the smog. The LUMS Student Council, unlike the Punjab government, has recognized the problem and has been kind enough to distribute free face masks for the protection of the LUMS community.
Environmental hazards like smog are the outcome of long term ignorance in regard to a cleaner and healthier milieu. Attempting to reduce pollution is an investment in the future that we should all make collectively. A useful start would be to continue urging the government for better controls over the environment. On an individual level, using public transport, managing our waste and educating others on the need to do the same is also helpful for a healthier environment. It is impossible to attain instant relief but gradual peace can be achieved through such efforts.
Here is to hoping for advantageous showers of rain and a quick riddance from the evils of smog. Stay safe!