Caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, announced a four-day holiday in the smog-affected areas of the province.
The decision, shared in a press conference on Tuesday, aims to mitigate the severe smog conditions. The holidays, from Thursday (Iqbal Day — a national holiday) through Sunday, are hoped to reduce smog levels significantly.
The holiday will particularly apply to the Lahore Division, encompassing Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura, and Nankana Sahib districts and extending to Gujranwala and Hafizabad. Additionally, Naqvi revealed the imposition of a health emergency to tackle the escalating smog crisis.
Previously, provincial authorities considered an extra weekly off but decided against it, opting to monitor the situation instead. However, recent Air Quality Index (AQI) readings have shown alarming pollution levels, with Lahore at 374 and Multan at 442, among others, signalling hazardous air quality.
In his briefing, Naqvi highlighted that schools and offices in Punjab will remain closed on November 10, following the national holiday on November 9. He advised schools to remain shut on Saturday as well, emphasizing the need for reduced activity to lessen pollution.
Furthermore, the chief minister encouraged markets to close on Saturdays and, if possible, on Fridays. He appealed to the public to stay indoors for these four days to minimize pollution.
Lahore: The Global Epicenter of Smog
Naqvi pointed out that Lahore has become the worst smog-hit city worldwide. He expressed concerns over reports of children suffering from respiratory issues and eye infections due to the smog. While acknowledging the government’s efforts to improve air quality, he admitted that eradicating smog is not feasible.
The chief minister advised the general populace to wear masks, emphasising children and the elderly. He clarified that factories would not be shut down. Naqvi also blamed India for contributing to Punjab’s worsening air quality, citing the cross-border effects of crop residue burning.