Director General Environment Protection Department (EPD) Punjab Ambreen Sajid has said that only Environment Protection Department shouldn’t be held accountable for smog, adding that media and public also need to actively play their role just like they did during the Covid-19 pandemic. While talking to Daily Times, Directorate General Environment said that till now, 280 pollution causing activities of the industries in Lahore have been sealed for not complying with orders. 36 district offices and eight laboratories of Environment Protection Agency are on field for ensuring the implementation of policies. With that, department’s Directors, Deputy Directors, Assistant Directors along with inspectors do field visits to ensure seamless implementation of the policies and impose fine to the polluters and seal them if needed. “Pakistan environment protection act (PEPA), 1997 provides a two-tier mechanism for implementation. There are guidelines for all industries, brick kilns, locomotives and stubble burning activities. The mandatory NOC issued before functioning of any industry is only to ensure that the respective industry is aware of all SOPs, environment policies and are complying with standards set by Environment protection department” the DG said. A total of 4761 kilns across Punjab were checked and Rs359.28million fine was imposed on the violators while 797 FIRs were registered, 22 persons arrested and 274 kilns sealed during past two weeks. Directorate General Ambreen Saijd also said that environment was a very tricky subject. There’s a very thin intricate balance between economic progress and air pollution. We don’t intend to make lives difficult for people however, If you want to flourish economically, the environment will get polluted. “During peak Covid time, when human life was in danger, all economic activities were hindered and stopped, smog is very much similar to the pandemic. Livelihood is crucial however; life is our first priority. We as department care for economic loss and wellbeing of workers so we only close the habitual pollution causing activity that too upon serving several notices of compliance,” she said. The Environment Protection Department also informed that they checked and sealed 280 pollution causing activities in industries across Lahore this year. They also registered FIRs against 77 units across Lahore. She also said crop burning is the domain of agriculture department, which has distributed 175 crop cutting machines out of 354 among farmers which ensure reduction of the residue burning about 37pc compared to last year. However, the contribution of agriculture burning towards smog formation is merely 20 per cent. The Directorate General also added that traffic emissions are the major contributor, contributing over 43pc to the total pollution; we are working with Lahore Traffic Company and traffic police for imposition of fines of smoke emitting vehicles. Smoke analyzers and Ringelmann scale is being used for checking smoke quality. Every vehicle must install catalytic converter/diesel particulate filter. The Environment Protection Agency also checked 4,097 vehicles, challaned 1,119 and imposed Rs1334750 fine besides impounding 139 vehicles. LTC is amending laws for private vehicles that they must also be certified from vix (vehicle inspection certificate) that has environment parameters in it. Lahore’s smog is a health hazard and partially closing off of schools and offices is in progress. Provincial Disaster Management Authority is doing its job to educate people on smog through electronic and print media and how they can play their part, she said. While pointing media’s and public’s role she said; even if we make laws, regulations, physical monitoring and checking things regularly; we cannot deny the importance of public participation. If the common public decides not to listen to the government, how will smog be mitigated? Media needs to play its role in reforming public behavior exactly the way it exceptionally played its role during Covid. Similarly, public needs to act responsibly in this case too. This is our collective responsibility and not only one or two departments’. The Directorate General also said that if you look in google maps and satellite images, 80/90 percent of the smog comes from India because farmers there are involved in stubble burning. We cannot directly talk to Indian government but we have suggested federal government to talk on the matter. While talking about latest notice from Environment Minister Muhammad Rizwan, the DG said, cheap mobile devices are used to check AQI to create panic among people. Only Environment Protection Department is authorized to issue these AQI’s because we have the accurate machinery as well as trained personnel designated for it and media should only report figures provided by official department. She expressed her concern that smog is a calamity and no environmentalist on earth can provide you any timeline to when a certain calamity is going to end. Sophisticated countries like US and Japan still aren’t well equipped to deal with natural calamities. We all are only trying. Only God knows when this will be over. During last year’s lockdown, air pollution was at its lowest because human activity was curtailed. Schools, colleges, and offices were closed and the air was clean. We are doing everything in our power to deal with the situation as effectively as possible, she added. Upon enquiry about any international collaborations for a joint effort to tackle smog, she said clean air action plan under smog commission report is prepared after due consultation with representative of other countries to get the lessons learned and implemented accordingly, as of any talks, only federal government is authorized to talk internationally. Recently, the Punjab government announced the closure of all private offices and educational institutions in Lahore for a total of three days a week till January 15th.