We have all been well aware of the plight of the alarming levels of climate change and the resulting catastrophic and unfortunate occurrences. But the magnanimity of the situation was fully understood and internalized by the residents of Lahore when on the evening of 6 November, the city was blanketed by a veil of thick black toxic smog.
The citizens of Lahore went into a state of panic as individuals struggled to find a whisper of breathable air from the choking smoke creeping into every crevice of each house. Multiple health issues from itchy, watery eyes to throat infections, coughing and difficulty breathing to serious lung problems became widespread in the city. The situation quickly developed into a public health emergency even though one wasn’t officially declared by the relevant authorities.
Whilst the city was previously experiencing continuous waves of smog in the preceding days, the air quality relatively improved when a trickle worthy amount of rain set down the dust and smoke suspended in the air. Whereas the government had fully neglected the situation previously and turned a blind eye to the hazardous air quality index of the city, the frightening wave of smoke infiltrated Lahore again on Wednesday 14 November, and the Air Quality Index of Lahore hit a fatally hazardous level of 640, forcing the Punjab government to close educational institutions in certain districts on Thursday. Little did we know that there were more school closures to come. Hence, with more closures following 15 November, the question arose ‘Is simply closing down schools for a day enough of a measure to deal with the issue at hand?’
Primarily caused by the toxic fumes from the booming population of private vehicles, industrial and brick kiln effusions of a massive scale, and the unchecked burning of crop residue alongside dust, smog has been a frequent visitor in November and so far nothing has been done to address the problem and understand fully, the dangerous implications of it- except for the closure of schools, of course.
At this point in time, the government should be taking drastic measures to make sure metropolitan cities like Lahore turn to sustainable policies instead and hold corporations accountable. Industries should be penalized for dispelling toxic waste and proper mechanisms should be installed to deal with these materials in a sustainable manner. Moreover, public transport initiatives should be undertaken with quality standards to incentivise more people to use public transport rather than private vehicles. Whereas the burning of crop residue, garbage, and lawn waste should be completely banned and individuals found violating this rule should be heavily charged to set a precedent. Perhaps even consider providing public buildings and offices with air purifiers. Where the air they breathe gives them life. Not suck the life out of them.
The fact that I, an A-Level student, has to suggest sustainable, environmentally friendly policies for the government to implement shows how much this issue has been neglected. Currently, students at my school come wearing masks to protect themselves from the city’s toxic air. With outdoor activities banned in schools, students facing breathing problems, and the fear of another day of thick smog, a gloomy atmosphere has overtaken the once vibrant cultural capital of Pakistan. We can’t even sit outside for lunch comfortably anymore without coughing. With our exams coming up, we can’t afford more school closures and yet, we live in the uncertainty of another day of smog engulfing us. We live in troubled times and we don’t have much left. Time is running out while our problems remain. Let’s write to our Climate Change ministry, lets sign petitions, let’s take action. Let’s not let our leaders fail us. It’s our future on the line, not theirs.
A note from the Editor-in-Chief:
We truly live in troubled times. Our once flamboyant, dynamic city has turned into a grey, dejected one. In addition, our nation is at the forefront of the effects of climate change and we, as the generation which will take the brunt of its effects, need to stand up for our basic right to a clean, healthy environment where clean air isn’t a commodity.