LAHORE: Smog thickened to the critical level over Punjab on Saturday, disrupting road and air traffic across the province and creating health problems for the people.
The level of smog at the lower level reduced significantly in Lahore due to, what the Environment Protection Department (EPD) officials said, the marked reduction in the local contribution of pollutants as a result of strict regulation. They said upper layer of smog was thickening due to the incursion of smoke and particle matter from the burning of crop stubble in the Indian Punjab.
The Motorway and National Highways Authority reported reduction of visibility on the roads from zero to 50 meters last night, making travel risky.
Its spokesman Imran Shah again reported in the evening closure of the motorway from Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad and from Faisalabad to Gojra at 8:30 because of poor visibility. The vehicles running on the motorway were guided out. He said thick fog was covering the national highway form Lahore to Dera Ismail Khan.
Flight operation too was disrupted during the early hours of Saturday. Airports all over the province were expected to be closed down at night because of the expected dense fog or smog. Many flights could not be landed at Lahore, Multan and other airports on Saturday morning due to unfavourable aviation conditions, causing problems to the passengers.
Environment Secretary Saif Anjum said local contributions to smog had been reduced considerably because the government steps. The inversion level, the level of upper layer caused by pollutants from India, was 600 meters while the level of pollutants below was decreasing, he said.
To prove his claim, he showed current readings of five air quality monitoring units in Lahore, indicating reduction in sulphur dioxide released by steel mills burning used tyres and other unsafe material. Similarly, the level dust particles and hydrosulphite (pungent foul smell from drains) too had been reduced due to strict regulatory regime.
India was still the main problem as the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Supraco) had so far detected around 50,000 fire incidents there from middle of October to November 3.
“Our fire incidents had been nearly 5,000 but we have registered 200 FIRs against the farmers burning their crop residue and arrested 67 of them,” Mr Anjum said.