The Punjab government ordered on Monday the closure of all private offices and educational institutions in Lahore on Mondays, in addition to the weekly holidays observed on Saturdays and Sundays till January 15.
The directive, issued by Punjab Relief Commissioner Babar Hayat Tarar, is hoped to act “as a preventive and speedy remedy” to ensure “public safety, conserve lives and preempt and mitigate imminent threat of smog in the province of Punjab”, states the order.
The order, applicable within the territorial limits of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation also cites evidence of “persistent deterioration in Air Quality Index of the city of Lahore, fluctuating from satisfactory to poor levels, which is likely to cause breathing discomfort, respiratory tract diseases and heart diseases” as a major reasons behind the decision.
The move comes days after Lahore topped the list of cities with the most polluted air in the world after air quality levels turned hazardous.
Smog occurs when smoke mixes with fog. While air pollution is a persistent issue in most urban centres in Pakistan, every October and November contaminates in the air in Punjab shoot up as farmers burn rice stalks or stubble left behind after harvesting to clear their fields to plant wheat.
During these cooler months, Lahore, which is surrounded by rice-growing districts, is covered with thick smog.
It said that the transport department had inspected 3,075 vehicles and issued warnings to 324 while 921 were challaned for emitting smoke.