Smog descends upon Lahore, again!


While it is understandable that the Punjab government has declared smog a calamity, since each year it reduces the province’s air quality to among the least-breathable in the world, what CM Buzdar hopes to achieve from some of his other orders is not immediately clear. For example, he’s directed administrative secretaries, commissioners and deputy commissioners to ‘make concerted efforts for the mitigation of this health hazard across the province’. But how exactly are the shining stars of our fine bureaucracy going to do that?
Smog is not something that you can order or even threaten away, not even if a senior civil servant does it. DCs have also been given powers of relief commissioners to take ‘all necessary measures to control smog’. Yet nobody’s explained what kind of measures could they possibly employ to ‘control smog’. This phenomenon has been worsening for some years now and every time the official machinery cannot do better than blame somebody else for it. Last year, for example, we were told it was because of Indian farmers setting large bushfires to hurt Pakistan, etc. If CM Buzdar’s directives were meant to somehow signal to the bureaucracy to come up with a better, more sound excuse this time, then he’s wasting everybody’s time.
This is a very deep-rooted problem and one that has built over years and decades of climate abuse. Suffice to say, then, that these things will not go away simply because a high-grade bureaucrat moved some files at the secretariat. It would be fair to ask, in fact, if the civil service even understands this phenomenon in its true sense; or if it is even its business to do so. It would be better if CM Buzdar moblises other arms of the provincial government; especially those that deal with the environment, smoke emissions from vehicles, and climate change.
Every year we win the dubious distinction of having some of the most polluted cities in the world because every time the government makes superficial gestures that look good in the headlines but have zero impact on the ground. It can only be hoped that it will not take too long to reverse this trend.