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Saturday, April 20, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

Schools are not closed on Wednesday, says Punjab’s interim education minister

Mansoor Qadir cites shutting down schools due to smog will be last option
Punjab govt for passing on impact of fuel prices drop to people - Aaj News

Schools are not going to be closed this Wednesday, caretaker Punjab Education Minister Mansoor Qadir said on Monday, as the provincial government takes steps to counter smog.

“Closure of schools due to smog will be last option,” he said at a press conference in Lahore that was centered on the decision-making meeting regarding Wednesday’s holiday to review the anti-smog and smog situation in the province.

Last week, the Lahore commissioner imposed Section 144 – under which the government places a ban on any activity and gathering of people – in the city to prevent smog and contain pollution across the division.

The government has been imposing a fine on the owners of smoke-emitting vehicles, ordering them to have a “fitness certificate” for their vehicles. The traffic police have imposed a fine worth Rs10.2 from January to October to such owners, according to the information minister.

Around two weeks ago, the cabinet held its first meeting on smog where the participants discussed measures to control it.

According to the education minister, the smog situation was “much better” due to recent rains. “We have not decided to take any decision related to the closure of schools and neither are we taking any such this week,” Qadir said.

Qadir explained that such a decision would be taken when the air quality index reached such a height which was dangerous for the schoolchildren, reiterating that their health and wellbeing were “very dear” to the government.

He went on to add that children and senior citizens were most affected due to smog, adding: “In this weather, we don’t want to take a chance where they will be a victim of illnesses.”

The minister lamented that a propaganda campaign was led against the government.

Closure of schools every Wednesday would be a temporary decision stated Qadir, and added it would be reviewed weekly in a meeting.

“I want to present it in front of parents that they should be worried about this we are taking care of your children’s health and well-being and in extreme situations this decision will be taken.

Why Wednesday?

The rationale behind the closure of schools on Wednesday was to break the cycle of high air quality index level, caretaker Minister of Planning and Development, Forrest Wildlife and Fisheries & Environmental Protection Bilal Afzal said.

“When we see the historic trend, our AQI level starts to increase on Monday and it rises to its maximum till Friday. It falls the next two days due to day offs. We thought that if AQI reaches a hazardous level then we will bring this day off on Wednesday to break its peak,” he said.

Afzal added that the transport contributed 45% to the smog, making it the biggest contributor to the pollution.

“If this 45% rate gets a day to decimate then our AQI level does not go on that level that’s why the cabinet committee on smog will meet every week to see when we have to have taken that break so that our AQI level does not go on hazardous level,” the minister said.

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Govt drops price of petrol by Rs40, diesel by Rs15

Section 144 imposed in Lahore to prevent smog

Govt eyes decrease in transport fares

The provincial government has asked the transporters to lower the prices of transport fares after the Rs40 drop in the price of petrol, caretaker Punjab Transport Minister Ibrahim Hassan Murad said.

“The fare of non-air conditioned vehicle [which is regulated by the provincial government as per the laws] from Lahore to Faisalabad is around Rs550 but our target is that at maximum this should fall to Rs400,” he said.

Murad added that the fare from Lahore to Gujrat was Rs460 and the government was trying to bring it to Rs350. Moreover, the government was eyeing an Rs125 decrease in Lahore to Rawalpindi fare which stood at Rs950.

While speaking about measures to counter smog, he said that the government has tested at least 31,000 vehicles over the past few weeks and around 5,500 vehicles have been fined. Such an action has generated Rs8 million and 40 to 50 vehicles have been seized.

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