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Health Emergency Declared in Northeastern Pakistani Cities Due to Heavy Air Pollution

Authorities in Pakistan on Tuesday imposed a “health emergency” in the country’s second-most populous city of Lahore, and other adjoining northeastern districts, announcing four holidays a week due to heavy smog that sent the air quality index soaring up to 400.

Addressing a news conference, the interim chief minister of the northeastern Punjab province, Mohsin Naqvi, said that apart from Sundays, offices, schools, colleges, cinemas, parks, and other public places will remain closed on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays until further notice.

Markets, however, will remain closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Due to increasing smog, the government is going to impose a health emergency in Lahore, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, and Nankana Sahib districts until the ongoing situation improves,” said the chief minister.

He said the administration is already on high alert and has been tasked to accelerate actions against crop burning and other factors that contribute to smog.

Enveloped by layers of toxic smoke, Lahore – the capital of Punjab province and home to nearly 14 million people – is currently among the most polluted cities in the world, along with New Delhi, and Dhaka.

Naqvi blamed the rise in smog on wind from neighboring India bringing smoke and other pollutants, mainly due to stubble burning by paddy farmers in Indian Punjab.

Local meteorologists said that smoke and other pollutants had entered Lahore from Jalandhar in Indian Punjab, where farmers burn crop leftovers for the sowing season every year at the beginning of November.

A combination of smog and smoke has left hundreds of people with sore throats and itchy eyes, with doctors urging the public to drink more liquids and stay indoors to avoid respiratory trouble.

Heavy smog has been affecting parts of both countries at the start of winter for the last several years as authorities in India failed to contain the burning of stubble by farmers despite repeated warnings.

Source : aa