Lahore High Court (LHC) Justice Shahid Karim has ordered the removal from his post of the Punjab environment director general because of unsatisfactory arrangements made by the government to curb smog, which intensified in several areas.
The judge also ordered that the government and private schools and colleges in the province be kept closed on Saturday every week because of the increased smog.
Hearing petitions about how smog and pollution could be curbed and groundwater saved from wastage, he ordered strict implementation of an earlier policy of working from home in offices for two days a week.
The Lahore commissioner and other officials were present during the proceedings.
Justice Karim remarked while expressing his displeasure at one point that the only way left for government to control the smog appeared to be through announcing holidays.
Expressing dissatisfaction over arrangements made by the government to curb the smog, Justice Karim remarked that the Lahore commissioner used to make tall claims but no performance was evident on the ground.
The judge directed the caretaker government to transfer the deputy commissioners of Sheikhupura, Hafizabad and Gujranwala over their unsatisfactory performance in this regard.
Justice Karim also hinted at issuing notices of contempt of the court to the officials.
He came down hard on the environment DG, chief secretary and other officials over their performance.
Regarding ongoing uplift projects, the Lahore Development Authority’s (LDA) lawyer argued that an underpass had been constructed within 70 days.
However, Justice Karim remarked that the people would face the consequences in the form of smog throughout the winter season.
The court adjourned the proceedings till Wednesday, directing the officials concerned to hold a meeting with the Punjab chief secretary to discuss its directions and to come up with details of progress made in this regard.
Justice Karim had earlier directed the authorities concerned not to de-seal till the decision of the court the factories spreading smoke and polluting the environment.
During previous proceedings, the judge had directed the authorities to impose Rs5,000 fine over wrong parking and Rs3,000 over car washing at homes and emission of smoke from vehicles.
He had also ordered demolition of brick kilns spreading pollution with smoke.
Justice Karim had also ordered the imposition of Rs2,000 worth of fine on the spot over violation of the one-way traffic rule.
The court had also increased to Rs200,000 from Rs50,000 the fine imposed on those found involved in burning stubble in fields across the province. The registration of FIRs is not the only solution for stopping stubble burning, Justice Karim had observed.
The LHC had directed the Punjab government to impose a smog emergency and take appropriate measures to control the smog before the conditions worsened.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th2023.