Pakistan’s anti-haze team targets Lahore plant for emissions | Environmental News

The van of the Anti-Smog Squad was driving in the congested traffic of Lahore, on the way to track down the smoking factory-in one of the seemingly futile tasks The most polluted city in the world.

An armed guard sits in the white vehicle, protecting the six members of the team, holding in their hands a list of locations they plan to inspect that day.

They scanned the gray, heavy sky, looking for signs of toxic smoke, indicating that the factory had violated environmental laws.

Commuters move along the smog-shrouded road in Lahore [Arif Ali/AFP]

“All we need to do is to track the smoke and find the source, we don’t even need a list,” said Ali Ijaz, an environmental department official in charge of the new operation, which will run for a month until mid-December.

The five squads of the operation are the latest effort by the Lahore authorities, and the area is close to the Indian border to curb the annual Pollution peak This left more than 11 million residents breathless.

Ijaz said they plan to visit 300 industrial factories in this huge metropolis, which have been identified as the cause of the most serious emissions.

Interaction-Polluted City(Al Jazeera)

Air quality in India Pakistan has deteriorated in recent years. Dangerous pollution in winter is driven by a mixture of low-grade diesel smog and smog produced by burning seasonal crops, and has been exacerbated by colder temperatures.

Lahore is often listed as one of the most polluted urban centers in the world, and often tops daily rankings.

Dangerous air quality can cause breathing problems, from discomfort to respiratory tract and heart disease.

However, the authorities have been slow to act, blaming the smog on its main competitor, India, or claiming that these figures have been exaggerated.

This year, pollution was resolved earlier than usual, and the city has been shrouded in stagnant, dirty gray air for several days. Last week, the provincial chief minister Usman Buzdar called this a “disaster.”

Officials from the Anti-Smog Team of the Ministry of Environment in Lahore prepare to seize a steel plant that violates pollution regulations [Arif Ali/AFP]

Close at gunpoint

In a recent mission, one of the five teams went to a neighborhood where many factories and mills were billowing smoke among the densely populated people of the city.

“Obviously, the factory is using substandard fuel. These gases make people with this disease intolerable Breathing problems,” said team leader Sajid Ali.

The air is dark gray and it is difficult to breathe even when wearing a mask. Piles of garbage were scattered on the street, where the gate marked the entrance of the factory.

When the team entered the first factory, they could see that the contaminated furnace had just been extinguished-they were still hot, and the newly forged steel rods were left on the ground to cool.

Squad members asked about fuel and machinery.

It seems that this factory lacks a “scrubber”, a device that removes industrial pollutants from the exhaust gas stream. They quickly closed it, and its workers evacuated under the keen eyes of an armed escort.

This time, they flowed out silently. But this is not always the case. Environmental official Ijaz said he described these “fire incidents” as punishments for employees.

Although the team was backed by legal powers, a lawyer threatened to take action, and the two parties agreed to simply block the machine instead of the factory itself.

Officials inspect a steel plant after violating pollution regulations in Lahore [Arif Ali/AFP]

‘compromise’

This is one of the many challenges facing the authorities.

“Many factory owners try to pressure the team through political influence and relationships,” a squad leader who asked not to be named told AFP.

“It makes our job more difficult…we are forced to reach a compromise.”

The authorities do not want to close the factory for more than a few days at a time, because low-wage workers are paid on a daily basis.

Then there is the sheer scale of the task.

Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer and activist, said: “In Lahore alone, there are thousands of industrial sites that emit emissions that cannot be resolved by six to twelve teams.”

Ijaz didn’t have much hope.

He said that even if they could close all the factories in the city and reduce traffic, they would only “reduce the intensity of the smoke, but not eliminate it.”

“We will face this situation for a long time.”

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