LAHORE        -         Schoolchildren have filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) against the ‘hazardous’ level of smog and environmental pollution in Punjab.

The writ petition was filed days after Amnesty International, a human rights group, exposed in a statement the government’s “failure to protect people from exposure to hazardous air in Punjab risks violating their human rights to life and health”.

The court has directed the Punjab government to file its reply in the writ petition filed by the students. In the petition, the students sought the attention of the Lahore High Court chief justice to the deteriorating air quality in Lahore and its surrounding areas. Through Rafay Alam Advocate, the children informed the court that the Environment Protection Department, Punjab, considered the air quality index (AQI) of 182 as safe to breath, when by international standards the index should not cross 50.

Last week, the city’s air quality crossed safe limits and was recorded at well over 400. The city also has continued to be shrouded by a toxic blanket of smog since October.

Experts are of the view that children and elderly persons are most vulnerable to the dirty air.

However, the rights group in its statement advised the people in Lahore to “avoid all physical activity outdoors” as the Air Quality Index in the provincial capital had reached 484 at 10am on that day while that the threshold for “hazardous” levels of air quality was 300.

It said, “During the ‘smog season’ – from October to January – air quality reaches ‘hazardous’ levels, as recorded by multiple, independent sources including the air quality monitors installed by the United States Consulate in Lahore and the crowdsourced data collated by the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative.”

Last year, Lahore and Faisalabad were ranked in the top 10 on a list of the world’s most polluted cities..

“The high level of smog is neither a new problem, nor one that came without warning. The government of Pakistan needs to do much more to adequately address such a severe public health crisis — one that endangers people’s health and even their lives,” said Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.