On Wednesday, a dense fog of smog enveloped Lahore, causing officials to report that tens of thousands of city residents are at risk of lung illness and eye-related conditions, while doctors urged people to stay home.
In Lahore, air quality worsened to dangerous levels, placing an additional pressure on the vulnerable health system in the midst of a rise in deaths from coronaviruses and new infections. The Air Quality Index soared to 750 in the poorest parts of the city at one point, around 12 times the recommended amount.
Earlier in the day, after New Delhi, India’s capital, Switzerland-based air quality information portal IQair named Lahore the second most polluted city. It is now ranked as the world ‘s fourth most polluted city, followed by Beijing, Delhi and Mumbai.
In Pakistan in winter, as farmers burn off stubble in the fields, emission indexes peak significantly. By further spreading smog across the area, winds aggravate the emissions.
Today, the amount of air quality was dangerous , ” said Sajid Bashir, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson.
The condition had improved by mid-day, he added, as authorities took action to keep smoke-emitting vehicles off the roads and shut down brick kilns in the province of Punjab, where the provincial capital is Lahore.
For months after March, when the government enforced a lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, Lahore, once called the town of gardens, remained pollution-free. But the ban was removed in May, enabling manufacturing operations and regular industries to return to work. The air quality steadily worsened, slipping back to unsafe standards with cars back on the roads.
Cars are Lahore ‘s top contaminants, but the city also has other emission sources, including stubble burning, steel processing furnaces, and the prominent brick kilns of the city.
“Coughing, inflammation of the throat and discomfort of the eyes are normal,” Anza Farid, an environmental expert, said, warning that the condition could escalate in the coming weeks as more people in the cities burn garbage and farmers in their fields burn stubble.
PM Imran’s warning
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that, as the winter season approaches, a second wave of the novel coronavirus may reach cities with a high level of pollution in the coming months.
The premier said that during October and November, as temperatures start to drop, many towns, where emission levels are high, experience smog.
“I fear that there might be a second surge in coronavirus cases in these two months, October and November […] cities such as Faisalabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Gujranwala, where there is more pollution […]. The cases are rising steadily and we hope they do not escalate dramatically and we are tracking it,” he said.
He also claimed that “pollution becomes stagnant in the atmosphere during the winter,” contributing to the spread of diseases.