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Punjab minister asks FIA to take action against ‘false’ reporting on air pollution

Punjab Environment Minister Muhammad Rizwan. Photo: Punjab Assembly

LAHORE: Minister for Environment Punjab has approached the Cyber Crimes Wing (CCW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), requesting it to take strict action against those reporting misleading/false readings of Air Quality Index (AQI) from various unauthorised sources in Lahore, BOL News has learnt.

Sources said Minister for Environment Punjab Muhammad Rizwan has written a letter to the director of FIA Punjab [Cyber Crimes Wing], requesting him to take cognizance under the cyber-crimes law against those reporting ‘misleading’ facts about air quality monitors due to which Lahore has been declared as the worst polluted city in the world, leaving Indian Capital New Delhi behind.

According to the letter, the Environment Protection Department (EPD), Punjab, is administering the Punjab Environmental Protection Act, 1997.

“It is an act to provide protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of the environment for the prevention and control of pollution, and promotion of sustainable development.”

The letter also read that during the smog, some unscrupulous elements with the mala fide intentions were trying to damage the image of Pakistan by reporting misleading/false reading of Air Quality Index (AQI) from various unauthorised sources in Lahore on print and electronic media contrary to the information by EPD, Punjab.

“Any person/company issuing data on social media/internet without the approval of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) should be closed down and action be taken under the cyber law.”

Moreover, Rizwan requested the FIA that it would be appreciated if necessary action is taken against delinquents accordingly.

Lahore had an air quality ranking of 348, well over the hazardous level of 300, according to IQAir, the Swiss technology company that operates the AirVisual monitoring platform.

Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province and having a population of more than 11 million, has been declared as the most polluted city of the 94 cities across the world that the Swiss company monitored daily.

The air pollution has worsened in Pakistan in recent years because of multiple factors, including a mixture of low-grade diesel fumes, smoke from burning seasonal crops, etc.

Environmental experts have warned that PM2.5 concentration in Lahore air is currently 30.8 times above the WHO annual air quality guideline value, which is very harmful for humans and animals alike.

To deal with the alarming health situation in Lahore, the Punjab government has decided to impose an embargo on supply of Euro-2 fuel in the provincial capital during the ongoing smog season.

Punjab Minister for Finance Hashim Jawan Bakht has disclosed that only Euro-5 petroleum products will be allowed for sale in Lahore from next month.

Chairing a meeting of the anti-smog committee at the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) head office recently, the minister had directed the Lahore division commissioner to ensure supply of only high-quality fuel in the city.

He also instructed the relevant officials to ask Euro-2 fuel producers to upgrade themselves.

Similarly, Bakht had also ordered closure of factories running without scrubbers and taking strict legal action against those showing resistance.

The minister noted that there will be no relaxation in burning of tyres, rubbers and plastic by directing the local administration to ensure strict implementation of smog-related restrictions in the city.

“[The] Punjab relief commissioner will be responsible for transfer of brick kilns to new zigzag technology and closure of obsolete brick kilns,” the minister had said, adding that the Police and Transport Department will seize vehicles, causing environmental pollution in the city.

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