Thursday, December 7, 2023

Clear Intentions, Clouded Judgement: Lahore’s Smog Policy Needs Rethinking

As Lahore’s skyline blurs under the weight of smog, the urgency for effective policy measures has never been greater. Smog, a pervasive adversary, warrants bold actions and innovative solutions such as cloud seeding to induce rain, potentially mitigating pollution levels. Yet, the policy landscape is as murky as the air, with recent government directives prompting closures of restaurants and markets during weekends—measures that may not withstand scrutiny.

Weekend closures deal a critical blow to restaurants, which rely on these days for a significant share of their revenue. With fixed costs and slim profit margins, the industry is particularly vulnerable to such disruptions. This policy risks the viability of many establishments that count on weekend patronage to sustain their operations.

The impending rain forecast for Friday in Lahore could naturally alleviate the smog, raising the specter of confirmation bias should the government attribute improved air quality to its shutdowns. This potential misattribution threatens to solidify policies that unfairly target the less culpable service sectors while industrial behemoths.

The narrative on pollution sources must be reframed to include the numerous steel smelters along the Ring Road, known for their substantial emissions, rather than singling out specific entities. Additionally, the presence of factories in areas like Gurumangat introduces heavy diesel truck traffic into the city’s core, exacerbating the pollution levels.

The government’s current stance is akin to treating a symptom while ignoring the disease. By focusing on the restaurant industry, which has barely recovered from the pandemic’s economic impact, policy-makers risk undermining a vital sector that employs millions and is pivotal to the province’s cultural and economic vitality.

The need for decisive action against smog is undeniable. However, policies must be equitable and science-driven, targeting the primary sources of pollution. Instead of having a knee jerk reaction that causes vast economic harm in a country on a brink of an economic bust.

It’s crucial for the government to engage with all stakeholders, including environmental experts and industry representatives, to craft a strategy that is both effective and fair. The vitality of Lahore’s social and economic life hangs in the balance, and so does the public’s trust in their leaders to make informed, impartial decisions in the face of environmental crises.

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