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People of Lahore seem to not have really realised the extent of the problem they are facing these days i.e. smog. For lack of a better understanding, a large number is considering it the dense fog the city used to experience until two decades ago, while many others consider it a seasonal change indicating arrival of winter – a chance to style oneself up in warm clothing.

But smog is a serious health hazard that appears to be becoming an annual event in the concrete jungle that the city is rapidly becoming. It’s a deadly amalgamation of pollutants, exhaust fumes, smoke, dust and fog that react in sunlight and stagnant air to offer an air mixture extremely harmful to humans. Its also referred to as ground-level ozone. Itching and irritation in the yes, tightness in chest, difficulty in breathing, wheezing, cough and heaviness in the head are routine symptoms of exposure to the polluted air. People with respiratory and heart problems are at a higher risk on falling sicker.

The situation is almost the same in New Delhi, capital of neighbouring India, the only difference being Delhi-ites becoming much more concerned and calling for quick remedial measures. Advisories have been on and about the media, advising people to take more care. Even schools have been shut off in the capital to limit children’s exposure to the polluted air, as medical experts opine children and elderly are at more risk of being affected by the deadly gases owing to weaker immune systems.

Buildings along Main Boulevard Gulberg made invisible by heavy smog.

Sadly, the Punjab government’s lukewarm response of limiting the number of hours at schools across the city leaves much to be desired. The Academia believes shutting off schools across Lahore until the smog clears is the need of the hour. This will have two key benefits.

Firstly, children, the part of population most vulnerable to the hazardous effects of smog will remain limited inside homes, where the environment is much safer than in schools. This is absolutely necessary to limit a potential catastrophe of seeing thousands of kids falling ill due to smog.

Secondly, the closure of schools would significantly reduce traffic on the city’s roads until we see finer weather. The limited number of cars is certain to reduce the emissions being constantly added to the thick layer of smog already hovering over the city, and help reduce the lethal overhang of polluted air.

Of course there will be an affect on academic activities, but lectures and classes missed can always be made up. If continued with, the opportunity cost and health hazards of schooling in such a weather might well become a tad too much in just a few days.

In the long term, the government must reflect on its actions that have resulted in the felling of thousands of trees for the sake of infrastructure development. The citizens must also decide where their priorities are: vast eight-laned roads that let them ply shiny automobiles at breakneck speeds, or more trees that let the coming generations breathe and prosper in a healthy environment.