Yesterday evening, a sudden pattern of smog engulfed the metropolitan city of Lahore, and disastrously, the Lahore’s Air Quality Index (AQI) all of a sudden from less than 200 rose to more than 500. It was an alarming situation for the provincial government, the immediate and wise decision they took was the closure of public and private schools on Thursday.
Indeed, the suffering people witnessed the past night was immensely dreadful for the health. However, one must understand that what actually happened was all of a sudden, and there were no visible factors for it to happen.
The answer can be traced from National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) recent satellite images, which are clearly showing huge crop residue burning in the Indian east Punjab cities of Amritsar and Jalandhar.
What we must understand that the local contributors combined are not even around 20% to cause such a massive smog pattern. The crop burning from the neighboring Indian Punjab is a gigantic factor for this sudden smog, and to make it worse the wind direction has contributed hugely to it.
It was specifically the swift wind yesterday that brought this smog constantly to Lahore for five to six hours, and it was again the rapid wind that took it away from Lahore and its suburbs.
Even last week, what was called smog was just mere smoke and haze. Also, the Punjab government has issued a notification to close brick kilns from November 1st to December 20th that are considered a major contributor to smog.
This evidence from NASA is not just related to yesterday’s activity, the space agency has been continuously releasing multiple pictures of crop residue burning in Indian east Punjab and Haryana from October 21st to October 29th, illustrating a remarkable increase in stubble burning.
The catastrophic patterns of smog that Lahore and many parts within Pakistan Punjab are witnessing from last to three years, is also due to this residue burning in Indian east Punjab as it is a substantial factor to it. The reason it happens is because before the winter harvest, farmers have to clear the spare vegetation from their land to get it ready for next crops plantation, for which they burn the leftover stalks to save their time.
Within Pakistan Punjab, steps have been taken to counter this grave issue including banning the residue burning. Nevertheless, vast efforts are still required especially in context of car fumes and industrial emissions which are persistently damaging Lahore’s air quality.
However, it is from the Indian east Punjab where still concrete steps are not being taken, the consequences of which are faced by Pakistan Punjab too. The Indian Punjab administration has to realize that it is not just Pakistan that is in the firing range, it is their own nation as well that is facing the terrible results of it. Apt example of it is their federal capital New Dehli that is also witnessing a colossal smog crisis, and surprisingly the Indian authorities have not looked serious in banning the residue burning.
Similarly within Pakistan, we must understand that not enough but the provincial government is taking steps they can in the existing circumstances, and therefore, there are some other aspects that are not within anyone’s control for which we must wait things to get better.