In an effort to combat the persistent smog enveloping Lahore Division and its adjacent regions, Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi has declared a public holiday on Friday, November 10.
The decision comes as various areas of the province grapple with severe air pollution, largely stemming from the burning of crop residue by farmers, exacerbated by emissions from substandard diesel.
To address the worsening smog issue, the government had earlier appealed to citizens to wear facemasks for the next month and to limit unnecessary outdoor activities. Parents were also advised to ensure that their children use facemasks when attending school and colleges.
Chief Minister Naqvi, speaking at a news conference held at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, explained that Thursday, November 9, had already been designated as a national holiday to commemorate the birth anniversary of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, one of the nation’s founding figures. Following the advice of environmental experts, Naqvi announced the suspension of school and office operations in all districts of Lahore Division, which includes Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura, and Nankana Sahib, as well as some areas of Gujranwala and neighbouring regions on Friday, November 10.
Moreover, the government, following a meeting earlier in the day, decided to grant an additional holiday right before the two-day weekend, providing a four-day respite aimed at reducing smog levels.
Chief Minister Naqvi emphasised that punitive measures had been taken against farmers involved in burning crop residue, and the situation was being closely monitored. He clarified that factories would remain operational to protect workers’ livelihoods. He urged residents to ensure that children and the elderly wear facemasks and advised people to stay indoors from Thursday unless it is essential to venture outside.
In addition to managing smog, Naqvi disclosed that a health emergency has been imposed in the province due to the rising number of patients with respiratory, throat, and eye diseases, attributable to alarmingly high levels of atmospheric pollution.
Read more: Punjab declares smog emergency
Responding to questions, the chief minister acknowledged that it is challenging to completely eliminate smog but asserted that with strict measures and responsible behaviors, it can be controlled. He noted that heavy rains are the only factor that significantly improves atmospheric pollution and smog.
Lahore’s air quality remained in the ‘hazardous’ range with an air quality index (AQI) of 444 on Tuesday, according to AirVisual, a global air monitoring giant.
The city’s air quality ranking places it at the second position among major polluted cities, following Delhi with an AQI of 468. Information available on the AirVisual website forecasts that the air quality in the provincial capital will remain in the ‘unhealthy’ range until Friday, with some improvement expected but still categorised as ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups.’