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Schools, offices in Lahore to remain shut thrice a week as smog worsens

Court halves attendance in Punjab private offices over smog. (Source: AFP)

LAHORE: The Punjab government on Monday ordered the closure of all private offices and educational institutions in Lahore thrice a week in view of the worsening smog conditions in the provincial capital.

Punjab Relief Commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar, in a notification, said the public schools and offices will remain closed in Lahore from November 27 to January 15 – on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

The educational institutions, however, will be able to organise online classes to keep up with the academic planning. Likewise, private companies would allow their employees to work from home during the closure.

“The directive is hoped to act as a preventive and speedy remedy to ensure public safety, conserve lives and preempt and mitigate imminent threat of smog in the province of Punjab, , Babar Hayat Tarar said in the statement.

The order, applicable within the territorial limits of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation also cites evidence of “persistent deterioration in Air Quality Index of the city of Lahore, fluctuating from satisfactory to poor levels,” as a major reasons behind the decision.

Meanwhile, in his statement, Chief Minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar said the authorities will take every step necessary to overcome the smog situation.

He added that a ban has already been placed on setting industrial material, crop leftover and tires on fire, to avoid a deterioration of the issue. Buzdar made it clear that no laxity will be tolerated in terms of the government’s efforts to improve air quality in the province.

The move comes days after Lahore topped the list of cities with the most polluted air in the world after air quality levels turned hazardous.

Smog occurs when smoke mixes with fog. While air pollution is a persistent issue in most urban centres in Pakistan, every October and November contaminates in the air in Punjab shoot up as farmers burn rice stalks or stubble left behind after harvesting to clear their fields to plant wheat.

During these cooler months, Lahore, which is surrounded by rice-growing districts, is covered with thick smog.

‘Court halves attendance in Punjab private offices’

On November 19, the Lahore High Court ordered the Punjab government to ensure 50 percent attendance of employees in private offices at least for the next seven days due to the prevailing smog in the province.

Justice Shahid Karim rejected a suggestion about closure of schools in case the Air Quality Index (AQI) exceeded the 400 mark in a particular locality. However, he directed the provincial government to issue a notification on the same lines as lockdown notifications during the pandemic requiring private offices to ensure 50pc work-from-home policy for at least a week.

The judge was hearing se­v­eral petitions regarding environmental issues. He ord­ered the authorities to take similar measures for go­v­ernment offices to the extent feasible to implement.

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