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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Punjab Takes Bold Measures to Combat Smog Crisis: Schools Closed, Artificial Rain, and Electric Bikes Announced

Punjab's caretaker government is taking swift action with school closures, face mask mandates, and innovative measures, including artificial rain and electric bike subsidies, to combat the smog crisis in ten cities.

In a bid to tackle the escalating smog crisis, the caretaker Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, declared the closure of all educational institutions on Friday and Saturday in ten smog-hit cities of the province.

The affected areas, including Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Hafizabad, and Narowal, witnessed severe air pollution levels, prompting the government to take immediate action.

Caretaker Chief Minister Naqvi, addressing a press conference, highlighted the role of crop burning in India as a major contributor to the smog in Lahore and its adjacent cities. Emphasizing the seriousness of the issue, he announced stringent measures, such as markets opening at 3 pm on Fridays and complete closure of businesses on Sundays.

The decision also included the provision of electric bikes to students at subsidized rates and the exploration of artificial rain if weather conditions permit.

Compulsory Face Masks and Restricted Movement in Smog-Affected Districts

The Punjab government’s commitment to combatting the smog crisis was further underscored by the mandatory requirement for citizens to wear face masks in the ten smog-affected districts.

Chief Minister Naqvi emphasized the collective responsibility to prioritize health, urging citizens to adhere to the guidelines for a safer community. The face mask mandate, effective from November 20 to November 26, covered districts such as Lahore, Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Narowal, Hafizabad, Sialkot, and Mandi Bahauddin.

Following the announcement, the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) issued a notification enforcing restricted movement in the affected divisions. The directive included the closure of all educational institutions, public and private, on Friday and Saturday, with markets, shops, and restaurants permitted to open after 3 pm on both days.

Additionally, offices would commence operations after 3 pm on Saturday, aligning with the strategy to address higher AQI levels in the morning.

Chief Minister Naqvi unveiled a series of innovative measures aimed at addressing the smog crisis in both the short and long term. The government’s commitment to providing 10,000 electric bikes to students on subsidies and offering the same facility to government employees on lease reflects a proactive approach to curb air pollution caused by traditional motorcycles.

Furthermore, the announcement of potential artificial rain in Lahore on November 29, contingent on suitable weather conditions, showcases the government’s dedication to exploring unconventional solutions.

The use of cloud seeding, or artificial rain, to induce precipitation and improve air quality represents a forward-looking strategy to mitigate the impact of smog. The chief minister also emphasized the symbolic significance of certain decisions, including the reservation of Mall Road in Lahore for cyclists on Sundays until 5 pm, as part of a comprehensive effort to break the peak cycle of pollution in the city and the province.