The Punjab government has started planting more trees in order to improve the air quality in Lahore, the forest department informed the Lahore High Court on Tuesday.
The government also said that it has formed a cabinet subcommittee on smog and scheduled a meeting of the Punjab Environmental Protection Council.
The court was hearing a writ petition filed by several school children who challenged the EPA’s Air Quality Index classifications as underreporting the severity of air pollution.
Justice Mamoon Rashid Shiekh, presiding over several air pollution petitions, has been hearing the matter on a weekly basis since the petitions were filed on November 6.
Leila Alam, Laiba Siddiqi and Mishael Hayat – all school and college going children – had approached the court aggrieved of the underreporting of the severity of air pollution in the province. According to the petitioner’s the air quality is worse than classified by the EPA, Punjab.
"We are not conducting the proceedings for ourselves. We are conducting them for everyone's children," remarked the judge during the hearing.
Last month, the government twice ordered all primary and secondary schools in the Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad Districts shut on account of dangerous levels of air pollution.
EPA and Punjab monitors installed on Lahore’s Jail Road and Gadaffi Stadium and in Wagah, all reported AQI readings over 200, but the corresponding air quality classification is stated to be moderately polluted. However, AQI classification by the US EPA considers such readings to be hazardous.
The court had directed the additional advocate general to file reports on steps taken by the government to implement measures to reduce air pollution.
Ahmad Rafay Alam, the counsel for the petitioners, welcomed the measures taken by the government.
“We hope the upcoming meeting of the Environment Protection Council will consider the underreporting of air quality as well as other issues related to air and water pollution in Punjab,” he remarked.