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Punjab govt announces 3-day closure of educational institutions in Lahore amid smog

School children

Punjab govt announces 3-day closure of educational institutions in Lahore amid smog. Image: AFP

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar-led provincial government decided closure of public and private educational institutions (schools, colleges and academies etc.) in the provincial capital on Mondays, along with, weekly holidays (Saturday and Sunday) with effect from November 27 till January 15, 2022. 

In his order on Monday, Relief Commissioner Punjab Babar Hayat Tarar also announced that all private offices being operated by companies, private sector entities and other individuals, within the territorial limits of Lahore Metropolitan Corporation, will remain closed for the same three days from November 27 till January 11, 2022.

Read more: ‘We thought he had Covid but it was smog’: Life in polluted Pakistan

There was evidence of persistent deterioration in the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Lahore, fluctuating from satisfactory to poor levels, which was likely to cause breathing discomfort, respiratory tract diseases and heart diseases amongst people of all age brackets, Tarar added.

“Whereas people in Punjab, with the highest ratio in Lahore, continue to be infected by Covid-19 and further overlap of conducive conditions for respiratory tract disease due to smog could exacerbate the situation,” the commissioner added in his order. 

The provincial cabinet of Punjab, in its 36th meeting, declared smog as calamity under Section-3 of “The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention and Relief) Act 1958,” which had been notified vide Relief Commissioner’s Order No.Smog-2020/10/Coord-I dated October 10, 2020, and all possible measures to contain and arrest the deterioration of ambient AQI, especially in territorial limits of the city of Lahore and Punjab, in general, were required to be taken, said the relief commissioner Punjab.

Babar maintained that, in his opinion, there were sufficient grounds to proceed under Section-4(2)(h) of “The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention and Relief) Act, 1958”, as an immediate preventive and speedy remedy, and the directions hereinafter appearing, were necessary to ensure public safety, conserve lives and preempt and mitigate the imminent threat of smog in the province of Punjab. 

“I have taken this decision in exercise of the powers under Section 4(2)(h) of ‘The Punjab National Calamities (Prevention and Relief) Act, 1958,’” he added. 

Punjab govt, federal education minister not on same page

According to sources privy to this development, the Punjab government was not on the same page as Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on the issue of closing schools due to worsening smog in Lahore.

Interestingly on November 20, Mahmood had told the media that the government was not planning to close educational institutions in the country, particularly in Lahore, due to smog as students had already “missed a lot” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Govt not planning to close educational institutions due to smog: Shafqat Mahmood

“We are not going to close schools due to smog as the schools were already closed due to Covid for 1.5 years following which education in Pakistan has already suffered a lot,” the minister had told the media outside the National College of Arts (NCA).

Some sigh of relief 

Criticising the Punjab government for not closing the educational institutions and offices for some time earlier, Narjis Fatima – a doctor by profession and a mother of two O and A-level students – said, “Something is better than nothing. At least our children would be safe from smog for three days.”

“We were shocked when the federal education minister announced that educational institutions will remain open. But we appreciate this prudent decision of CM Buzdar and his team to close offices and schools for three days in a week till January 15,” she added.

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