50% attendance at offices ordered | The Express Tribune


The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered the Punjab government to issue an immediate notification directing 50pc of private-sector workers to work from home amid high levels of smog in the provincial capital.

Justice Shahid Karim heard a petition seeking the redressal of smog, with the focal person of the Judicial Commission submitting a report to the court. However, the court did not agree with the Judicial Commission’s recommendation to close schools in areas with dangerous Air Quality Index (AQI) readings.

The report was submitted to the Lahore High Court wherein JWEC Chairman Justice (retd) Ali Akbar Qureshi proposed closure of schools in specific areas. The report stated that if the Air Quality Index (AQI) of a particular area exceeds 400 AQI a notice shall be issued through the education department for the closure of the respective schools or to conduct online classes as the case may be.

It (report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune) further suggested that if the AQI for a particular area reaches 500 (AQI) then all the activities being conducted by the respective industries shall be shut down. The traffic volume of the area having high AQI will be reduced to 50 percent using the technique of odd and even numbers which in turn shall be enforced by the local police and traffic police.

Earlier, the air quality in Lahore was declared “very unhealthy” for the inhabitants after smog engulfed the entire city. The provincial capital has also been ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the world in recent days.

The report, submitted by the focal person of the Judicial Commission, suggested that action should be taken against those who burn crop residues on a daily basis and said the Punjab Disaster Management Authority should immediately report the burning of crop residues to the concerned deputy commissioner.

Read LHC grants bail to two Rawalpindi Ring Road case accused

According to the report, about 2,190 cases of burning crop residues had come to light out of which 98 people had been fined.

The report further stated that more than 4,700 brick kilns were inspected across Punjab and fines of more than Rs30 million were imposed on the kilns, while 274 brick kilns were sealed. It added that 797 cases were registered against kiln owners whereas 22 of them were immediately arrested.

The report further revealed that more than 24,000 vehicles were inspected across Punjab. Warnings were issued to more than 8,300 vehicles emitting smoke.

More than 5,000 high-emission vehicles were fined more than Rs4 million. About 2,183 factories were inspected wherein cases were registered against 197 owners who did not install low-emission devices. About 245 high-emission factories were completely sealed.

Meanwhile, the agriculture department and the district administration have completely failed in dealing with those people causing smog across the province by burning stubbles.

The report by the Judicial Water & Environmental Commission reveals that 2180 cases of stubble burning have been reported but astonishingly enough the departments concerned imposed fine in 98 cases only.

No substantial arguments were given to explain the discrepancy, a source told The Express Tribune.

The source claimed that the officials were even chastised by the Chairman of the Judicial Water & Environment Commission, Justice (Retd) Ali Akbar Qureshi, over the matter.

Thus began the debate between the officials of the two entities, each holding the other responsible, the Agriculture Department saying their work was to point out the places where stubble was being burnt.

The source said that Justice Qureshi warned the officials that their fooling around over the matter would not be tolerated at all. People are being affected by smog, and this is not the time to put the onus on each other.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2021.

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