Throughout the course of the last few years, readings on the Air Quality Index (AQI) for Lahore have exceeded 600—crossing into extremely hazardous levels—owing to a multitude of reasons; one of which is increased road traffic. Finally, in recognition of lax laws and procedures to counter such a toxic atmosphere, the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered a fine, ranging from Rs200 to Rs2000, on vehicles that emit excessive smoke into the environment with the hopes that the objective to minimise air pollution is achieved.

Environmental experts, health professionals and activists have, time and time again, displayed their horror while observing the deteriorating quality of the atmosphere in the metropolis but have been unable to encourage prompt change. This inaction is particularly shocking given that there are a number of provincial and national laws that deal with depreciating air quality. Clearly, implementation should be the next objective of the government to ensure that any threat to the health of the masses, or their quality of life, is eliminated immediately.

For this reason alone, LHC’s initiative to fine smoke emitting cars is welcome because it targets one of the most significant polluters, especially considering that the average number of cars owned by each household in Lahore keeps increasing. Even the call to send such vehicles for impounding stands to set an important precedent for the masses, coaxing large-scale change to occur systematically. Another helpful aspect of the judgement passed by Justice Shahid Karim is the order for the submission for recommendations by the Environment Commission. This allows for the city to explore new avenues through which positive growth can be achieved, if such legislation fails to produce progressive results.

The problem of long-standing, extremely noxious and disabling smog is one that has evolved into a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly hard to overcome as time passes. Limiting the number of cars we let onto the roads and regulating the types of cars driven within the city is one way to improve the AQI substantially.