Residents of Lahore woke up to a dense blanket of smog on Wednesday that reduced visibility for commuters and prompted several complaints of respiratory problems and mental anguish.
Concerned residents took to social media to express their frustrations, posting pictures of the pea soup air reminiscent of the London fog that resulted in Britain’s first Clean Air Act. “Even inside my house, eyes are watering, throat is itchy,” tweeted Ali Hashmi, a psychiatrist and author based in the Punjab capital. “The smog in Lahore today is legitimately terrifying,” posted another user on Twitter.
Similar weather has been reported in neighboring districts of the metropolis, particularly on the Lahore-Islamabad motorway.
“Normally Punjab experiences such fog, mixed with pollutants, in December,” says Muhammad Riaz, chief meteorologist of the Pakistan Meteorological Department. “It is unusual for it to be this murky this early. But it also hasn’t rained in Lahore, Sialkot and Faisalabad since October.” Increase in air pollutants, says Riaz, can be attributed to an uptick in motor vehicle pollution in the city, an accumulation of dust from ongoing construction projects, and changes in climate.
The capital of neighboring India, New Delhi, is also choking on higher-than-usual levels of air pollutants. The recently concluded festival of Diwali exacerbated the problem due to a high volume of firecrackers and fireworks, prompting local officials to announce several initiatives to curb the threat. According to the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, the city’s Air Quality Index has reached hazardous levels.
“We are not contributors toward air pollution but rather its victims,” a spokesperson of the Punjab Environment Protection Agency told Newsweek on condition of anonymity. “Most of the smog you see here is coming from India.” The state-run agency, responsible for the improvement of the environment and the prevention and control of pollution, lacks the equipment for real-time monitoring of the city’s air quality, says the spokesperson. “We only have one air quality monitoring station in Lahore. We lack the data required to study the pattern of pollution.”
The Pakistan Meteorological Department has forecast “moderate levels” of smog to persist in the city and its adjoining areas for at least another five days. Healthcare providers warn that, while it persists, the smog will likely cause an uptick in viral infections and respiratory problems—especially among the young and infirm.