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National

AR
Amir Riaz
November 19, 2017

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LHC issues its own plan on smog

LHC issues its own plan on smog

LAHORE: The Punjab government’s failure to devise a comprehensive action plan to cope with the alarming situation caused by dense smog in Lahore and other cities compelled Lahore High Court to issue its own plan for enforcement by the government to protect people’s lives.
According to the plan issued by LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah through a nine page order in the smog case, the situation would become worst if the air quality index (AQI) crossed the limit of 300. It may put respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart diseases.
The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity. So, in order to handle the situation, the government would suspended all outdoor activities and evacuate the people to the safe places as for as practicable. If the AQI reaches the level of 300, the government should shut down all educational institutions and direct everyone to wear mask when outdoor.
Distribution of face masks and closing down parks would also be mandatory. Moreover, in case the AQI remains up to the level of 140, the government should issue public warnings for children and the elderly to remain indoors in clean air especially during peak times. Primary schools would also be shut down as this situation may cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease.
The CJ further directed that in case AQI remained up to 105 level, the government would shut down high air pollution-generating industrial units, impose restrictions on use of motor vehicles. Such situation, according to the CJ, may cause breathing discomfort to people with lung diseases such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart diseases.
In case the AQI touches 70, it may cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people. The government should immediately restrict air pollution-generating industrial units and construction activities in the affected area. In case AQI does not cross the level of 35, no action has been suggested by the court. Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah observed that the government departments had no desire, capacity or mutual coordination to deal with the Smog Emergency in the city.
The smog levels having touched the highest levels according to their own smog policy, no tangible steps were taken by the Environment Protection Department, Health Department or the School Education Department for the protection of the health or safety of the residents of Lahore, including children, pregnant women and persons of old age. This is most disconcerting and disappointing. Dense smog is physically visible in the city and the air monitoring record shows that it has gone above 300, the highest level. Doctors have confirmed that the smog levels are seriously hazardous to health of the residents. Inspite of this, no preventive measures to protect the life and health of the people have been put in place.
This court is bound to protect the fundamental rights of the people, therefore, relying on Article 9 of the constitution, i.e., right to life, read with the internationally recognised precautionary principle, till such time that the government proposes a detailed action plan, keeping in view the nature of the current crises, this court issued its own “Smog Health Emergency Action Plan”.
Government and its respective departments shall immediately act according to the directions given in the plan. The action of the government should be monitored by the chief secretary. Furthermore, daily readings of the air quality monitoring would be uploaded on the website of the Environment Protection Department and efforts shall be made to put real time data on the website at the earliest.
This data should be station-wise. The Smog Emergency Health Action Plan would come into motion on the basis of highest reading of any one of the air monitoring stations out of the five stations, the CJ added.

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