LAHORE - Smog continued shrouding plains of the country, especially Lahore, yesterday, hampering vehicular movement on inter and intra city routes besides causing serious health hazards.

Experts are seeing no respite from the prevailing harsh conditions as no significant rain giving system is approaching the country in next 2-3 days. Smog, fog will persist in November and December due to less than average rainfall during the period.

Smog considerably decreased visibility during the night, causing closure of motorway from Lahore to Islamabad and from Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad. Low visibility hampered vehicular movement on almost entire National Highway.  Authorities have advised people to avoid unnecessary travelling from midnight to early morning. They advised motorists to use fog lights, drive slow, keep a safe distance and avoid stopping in the middle of road.

Besides road, low visibility disrupted air and rail traffic. Several domestic and international flights were delayed due to low visibility. Almost all the trains reached to their respective destinations hours beyond the scheduled time.

Hazardous pollution has considerably increased skin, lungs, eyes complications, especially among those spending more time outdoors.

Experts have advised people to take precautionary measures to minimize exposure to hazardous pollutants-CO, CO2, SO2, NO and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5).

“Yes, the number of patients has increased considerably during the last couple of days. Mostly people are coming with ear, nose, throat complications, itching of eyes and skin allergy”, said Dr Abdul Rauf, leading family physician. “Even housewives and children who spend most of the time indoors are getting diseases due to unusual conditions”, he said. He advised use of masks, covering eyes with glasses to avoid respiratory and other issues.

He also urged washing hands, face and eyes with clean water. He suggested taking steam on returning indoors. He laid stress on extra care for newborn, and elderly people and avoiding walk in open places and parks during the morning and evening times.

EPA Director Naseemur Rehman Shah said that the government has adopted measures to check accumulation of pollutants in the atmosphere.

“Traffic Police have been directed to ensure smooth vehicular movement on major roads and congested areas. Extra wardens will be deputed at identified spots to minimize traffic congestion. EPA teams are visiting factories to check use of polluting fuel like rubber tyres. Industries have been directed to follow instructions for reducing emissions. Moreover, steps are taken to check burning of solid waste and crop residue in fields”, he said, adding, mobile lab was being used to monitor pollution level in different areas.

“Large scale burning of crop residue in India has deteriorated environment to the extent of smog formation even in the neighboring country. Local factors like traffic congestion, polluting vehicles, industrial emission and burning of solid waste has caused accumulative effect. Government is addressing the local factors and hopefully the situation will improve”, Naseem said.

According to the experts, westerly wave is affecting Kashmir and adjoining areas.

Local Meteorological Department has forecast mainly dry weather for most parts of the country during the next 2-3 days. However, rain-thunderstorm with snow over the high mountains is expected at few places of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Smoggy/Foggy conditions are expected over plain areas of Lahore, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Sukkur divisions during morning/evening.