In a significant move aimed at protecting citizens from the hazards of air pollution and prevailing smog, the Punjab government has declared a four-day public holiday in several divisions of the province, Express News reported.
An emergency meeting of the caretaker cabinet was convened in Lahore on Tuesday to address the escalating smog crisis, with Lahore once again topping the charts for environmental pollution.
During the meeting, crucial decisions were made to prioritise the health and safety of the people. An environmental and health emergency has been imposed in Lahore, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, and Narowal divisions. As a result, Friday, November 10, has been announced as a public holiday, and all activities will be suspended for a period of four days.
According to the official government announcement, schools, colleges, universities, government, and private offices will remain closed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Restaurants, cinemas, parks, and gyms will also be closed.
Marriage halls, pharmacies, and bakeries will however remain open and public transport services will continue to operate.
Additionally, there is a strong possibility of rain in Lahore on November 8 and 9, prompting the government to declare November 9 and 10 as public holidays. The public is urged to stay at home during this period, following a similar pattern to the Coronavirus lockdown, with the goal of reducing environmental pollution and smog.
This move follows last week’s declaration of a smog emergency by the Punjab government, which mandated that all school students wear masks. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority had officially recognised the smog crisis as a calamity.
Read more: Punjab declares smog emergency
Under these emergency measures, strict actions will be taken against individuals who fail to sprinkle water on gravel, debris, and construction materials to minimise dust. Efforts to control smoke emissions from vehicles and factories have been intensified, with a specific focus on impounding smoke-emitting vehicles within 24 hours.
Furthermore, the environment department is authorised to seal industrial units contributing to pollution, with the unsealing process subject to court orders. Farmers have been instructed to refrain from burning crop residue and to dispose of it properly.
In an effort to raise awareness and educate the public, educational institutions have been directed to incorporate smog-related discussions and sessions. Officials concerned will also visit schools and colleges to discuss the issue with students.
To address environmental hazards, strict actions are set to be taken against traffic officials if uncovered tractor trolleys carrying sand are found entering an area. All development departments have been instructed to ensure regular water sprinkling at project sites every two hours.
Deputy commissioners have been tasked with monitoring and taking stringent actions against stubble burning and the emission of black smoke from chimneys of brick kilns and factories. Random inspections of kilns that have converted to zigzag technology will be conducted, particularly during the night.
Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, who chaired the meeting, emphasised that these comprehensive measures are essential to combat the ongoing smog crisis and protect the health of the people. He appealed to the public to use masks and instructed caretaker provincial ministers to inspect schools to ensure compliance with these directives.