ISLAMABAD: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed authorities to close all educational institutions on Saturdays till the end of January in the smog-hit Punjab region, Pakistani media reported on Monday.
The development comes a day after Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi announced the provincial government had made it mandatory for people to wear face masks in 10 districts of the province for a week, amid rising levels of air pollution in the province.
Heavy smog has blanketed Lahore, Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Gujranwala and other districts since last week, reducing visibility and leading residents to complain of sore eyes and difficulty in breathing.
The provincial capital of Lahore routinely ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, according to a list compiled by Swiss group IQAir, which put the city’s air quality index (AQI) at 293 around 11am on Monday. An AQI of 0-50 is considered good while a reading above 100 is termed unhealthy for those with pulmonary issues. Anything between 301-500 is considered “hazardous.”
In a written order issued on Monday on a set of environment-related petitions, the LHC directed the provincial government to issue a notification, mentioning “at least closure of public schools, colleges, universities and all educational institutions for each Saturday till the end of January 2024,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.
“Also, the government shall take measures for declaring two days in the week as work from home in the private sector in the province of Punjab,” the court directed.
Smog season peaks between October and February every year due to the common practice of burning crop residue, particularly in Indian Punjab, to prepare the soil for the upcoming planting season.
This smoke significantly contributes to the presence of hazardous particles in the air and causes smog on the Pakistani side of the Punjab region, especially in Lahore.
The issue causes serious health problems and accidents in Lahore and other areas of Pakistan’s Punjab province and authorities often restrict road travel via motorways due to near-zero visibility. La