What steps taken to control prevailing smog, LHC asks govt

LAHORE: Chief Justice of Lahore High Court (LHC) Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Monday ordered the secretary environment to inform the court about steps being taken to control the prevailing smog. The chief justice also directed the secretary to give an action plan regarding tree plantation. The CJ observed that due to urban development, hundreds of trees had been cut in Lahore which had contributed to pollution levels to exponential height.

During the proceeding on petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Lahore President, Barrister Walid Iqbal, and others on Monday, the chief justice directed the secretary environment Saif Anjum to appear within 30 minutes in the courtroom. Saif Anjum appeared and submitted the notified smog policy signed by the chief minister. He said the law secretary had notified the smog policy in the official gazette.

Moreover, six air monitoring stations have been made functional to determine how much India was contributing to smog spillover effects in Punjab. He said that at present, there was no scientific data available to determine the air pollution level.

The chief justice expressed his displeasure that there was no scientific data available. The secretary environment submitted that action had been initiated against industrial owners who are contributing to green house gas emissions and furthermore awareness campaigns have been initiated in the media and schools how to overcome smog effect. He said that according to the policy, the air monitoring system would be expanded across Punjab; pollution charge rules 2001 would be enforced along with environmental laws.

He informed with the upgradation of central laboratory, greater checks and balances would be imposed in collaboration with the LCCI on industrial units emitting green house gas emissions. He said that awareness campaigns on all media regarding protective measures would be launched and also in schools where children are likely to suffer.

Petitioner counsel Sheraz Zaka had submitted that in 1952 the great smog was faced
by London which thereafter implemented environmental laws and in 1956 implemented the Clean Air Act 1956. He argued that in order to curb air and noise pollution during the times of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, coal industry in entire Britain was closed off.

He had said that in Pakistan, the reason behind the smog was the lack of enforcement of environmental laws and dysfunctional central laboratory in Lahore, which is due to the negligence of Punjab Environmental Protection Agency. He had submitted that the government had not taken any adequate awareness measures among the public. He had said that the Punjab environmental protection agency failed to perform its statutory obligations and enforce pollution charge rules and the federal government was flouting its international obligations under the Paris Agreement 2015.

He pointed out that even the EPA testing laboratory was not functioning. He requested that the provincial government and environmental protection agency should be asked whether the industrial activity taking place in the city was being scrutinised under the Pollution Charge Rules 2001 or the agency is performing its statutory obligations.

He requested to inquire from the authorities as to what remedial measures have been taken to address the prevailing weather condition arising from the toxic smog.