The Punjab government is considering implementing a COVID-like lockdown to address the issue of smog in Lahore.


LAHORE: The Punjab government is mulling to impose coronavirus-like restrictions in Lahore to control the worsening smog situation in the provincial capital, it emerged Tuesday.

According to sources, the authorities are likely to announce a complete shutdown on Wednesdays when all schools, markets, and factories will be closed.

Under the new policy, the government departments will operate with 50% strength on Wednesday, the sources said, adding that it has also been advised to carry out snap-checking on weekends — Saturday and Sunday.

The unusual traffic in the metropolis is the main reason behind smog while emissions from factories only contribute 7% in overall pollution in Lahore.

It has also been suggested, according to sources, to impose heavy fines on factories violating the law and shut them in case of continuous ignorance of the directives.

The sources shared that the highest level of smog is recorded on the first three days of the week — Monday to Wednesday.

Air pollution cuts life expectancy

Increasing air pollution in Pakistan may shorten life expectancy by at least seven years in the country’s most polluted regions like Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur and Peshawar, according to a report published by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) in its Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) in August this year.

According to AQLI — a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into its impact on life expectancy — particulate pollution is the second greatest threat to human health in Pakistan (behind cardiovascular diseases), reducing 3.9 years of life on average.

If Pakistan were to adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, limiting the annual average PM 2.5 concentration to 5 micrograms per cubic meter, the average citizen in the country could potentially extend their life expectancy by 3.9 years.

In contrast, child and maternal malnutrition, as well as maternal and neonatal disorders, collectively reduce the average life expectancy by 2.7 years.

It’s worth noting that all of Pakistan’s 240 million residents reside in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline. The report indicates that 98.3% of the population lives in areas that surpass Pakistan’s own national air quality standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter.

According to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), from 1998 to 2021, the average annual particulate pollution increased by 49.9% in Pakistan, resulting in a reduction of life expectancy by 1.5 years.

In the provinces of Punjab, Islamabad, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which are among the most polluted regions in the country, 65.5 million residents, equivalent to 69.5% of Pakistan’s population, are at risk of losing between 3.7 to 4.6 years of life expectancy compared to the WHO guideline, and between 2.7 to 3.6 years compared to the national standard, if current pollution levels persist, as reported by the AQLI.

Furthermore, the report highlights that if Pakistan were to meet the WHO’s guidelines, residents of Karachi could gain an additional 2.7 years of life expectancy, while those in Lahore could see an increase of 7.5 years, and people in Islamabad could gain around 4.5 years of life expectancy.

Additionally, the report points out that India is responsible for approximately 59% of the world’s increase in pollution since 2013.

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