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Students in Lahore ordered to wear masks

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In response to the severe smog conditions plaguing Lahore, authorities in Pakistan have taken measures to protect schoolchildren. Starting Thursday, students in Lahore have been mandated to wear masks during their lessons to shield themselves from the hazardous levels of polluted air. This initiative was prompted by the High Court declaring a “smog emergency” and urging officials to address the escalating health concerns.

Both private and public schools have conveyed messages to parents through text and WhatsApp, notifying them that their children must wear masks for a month while attending school. This move has been widely welcomed by parents and educators, particularly those whose children have asthma or eye problems.

Fifteen-year-old student Afshan Maqsood, who has experienced two throat infections since the onset of smog in October, appreciates the precaution, stating that wearing a mask is far preferable to falling ill.

Globally, South Asia is recognized as the region most severely affected by air pollution, as reported by the Air Quality Life Index from the University of Chicago. Pakistan ranks as the fourth most polluted country, following Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, based on annualized, population-weighted averages of fine particulate matter. These fine particles are associated with various health issues, including lung disease, heart disease, strokes, and cancer.

Air pollution in Pakistan has intensified over recent years due to factors such as low-quality diesel emissions, smoke from seasonal crop burning, and colder winter temperatures that contribute to the formation of stagnant smog clouds. Lahore, the country’s second most populous city near the Indian border, consistently ranks among the top ten cities globally with the worst air quality, according to IQAir, an air quality monitoring firm. As of Thursday, Lahore held the unfortunate distinction of being the second-worst city in the world for air quality, surpassed only by New Delhi.

Ahmad Rafay Alam, an environmental lawyer, described the smog crisis as a “total failure of governance” and highlighted the dire need to address the quality of diesel and fuel in the region.

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