Intermittent rain on Thursday came as a much sought relief for Lahore’s residents in the midst of city’s battle with toxic smog. Last evening, the Punjab government finally realized the gravity of the health threat posed by deadly smog and ordered an immediate closing-down of schools for a day.
However, the nature already had other plans. Rain in various parts of the city and adjoining localities cleared the air enough to reveal a pale blue skyline, something the residents were yearning to see since smog began blanketing the city in late October.
Smog is not a new a phenomenon for Lahore. In recent years, the city has witnessed regular occurrence of smog in the months of October-November before the cold spell in December. Every year, people take to twitter and other social media to spread information about the impact of breathing in the smog laden air. And every year promises are made to combat the situation.
This year interestingly, instead of promises the focus has been undermining the climate catastrophe and blaming stubble burning by Indian farmers for the terrible smog in Lahore. What needs to be understood is that there are no boundaries in the ecosystem. So, yes, if there is smog covering the neighboring capital it might end up having some effect on the nearby areas.
However, blaming India is not a solution to a problem caused by our own lack of environmental management. Stubble burning, smoke from diesel-run vehicles, coal burning in brick kilns, etc are factors contributing to air pollution in Lahore.
And the ones most at risk of respiratory issues are vulnerable young children and older members of the society with failing health and heart disease.
Therefore, closing down schools is nothing but a short-term measure to ensure the safety of children’s health. Short-term solutions to long-standing issues cannot magically eradicate the problem or improve air quality in the city. Incisive policy making, progressive action by stakeholders of environment and comprehension of the true effects of climate change and how to deal with it are the only effective ways to fight this recurring problem of toxic smog.