The District Education Authority warned on Thursday that legal action would be taken against the heads and administrators of schools ignoring the anti-smog standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The authority implemented the SOPs for schools due to the worst wave of smog in Lahore, under which wearing mask is compulsory for both students and teachers. It strictly advised the school heads to enforce the precautionary measures.

However, the academic activities were affected in both the government and private schools because of diseases caused by the toxic smog among the students and teachers.

On the other hand, the intensity of smog continued to increase in Lahore and adjoining districts, causing concerns among the parents regarding sending their children to school.

Routine life was severely disturbed due to smog blanketing the city as citizens found it hazardous to travel to markets and offices.

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A large number of residents of Lahore complained of cough, chest infection, flu, breathing problems, skin ailments and eye infection caused by the smog.

The worst effects were suffered by school kids and teachers, a number of whom visited the hospital outpatient departments for treatment.

The Lahore District Education Authority, in view of the situation, announced special SOPs for the schools, including making masks compulsory for the staff, teachers and students.

The authority issued instructions to all schools in Lahore that their heads, teachers, staff and students should wear masks.

All district education officers will visit the schools to check the implementations of the SOPs.

The private schools in the city were also instructed to implement the precautionary measures, including sprinkling water on and around the premises.

The caretaker provincial government had decided last month to keep the schools shut on Wednesday’s as part of measure to curb smog, but its implementation had been postponed. However, the situation has worsened, forcing the authorities to consider more widespread measures.

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"The whole city has been affected by the smog, including the schools, but we are performing our duties and also advising the children to wear masks. We had demanded earlier that the school hours should be reduced to ensure relief for the students. However, it is appreciable that at least the SOPs have been announced,” Punjab Teachers Union secretary general Rana Liaqat Ali said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Dense smog engulfed the city and surrounding areas as the situation kept deteriorating despite government efforts to curb the risk to the citizens. Lahore once again featured among the five most polluted cities of the world. High Air Quality Index (AQI) levels recorded at various sites in the city showed that the situation might worsen if the measures to improve the environment proved inadequate.

"The AQI were recorded at 321 at the Canal Road and 259 at the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department of the Punjab University. The worst air quality was recorded at the Town Hall at 358, showing that the situation is critical in localities inside the city. The reading at Faisalabad bypass was 139,” stated Environment Protection Department Deputy Director Farooq Alam.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2023.

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