Traders oppose govt’s decision to close markets due to smog


lahore smog market close

WEB DESK: The country’s official retail trade body has expressed opposition to the government’s decision to close markets and shops as a measure to control the increasing smog.

The Chairman of the CAP, Tariq Mehboob, said during a Thursday ceremony that the primary contributors to smog are heavy transport, waste and crop residue burning, and non-compliant factories, rather than the retail sector.

Mehboob pointed out that other countries, such as China and neighbouring nations, focus on regulating large vehicles using low-quality fuel, cracking down on waste burning, and stopping factories from polluting by burning wood and tyres.

He emphasised that closing markets is not a common practice in other regions for controlling air pollution.

In a statement to the media, Mehboob highlighted that retail timings have already been restricted to 10 pm for the past year by court orders.

Recent additional restrictions, including late opening and full-day closures, have resulted in significant losses for retail businesses, employment, and tax generation.

Read more: Are schools closed in Lahore on Friday?

Mehboob argued that shutting down the retail sector during crises, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, has a superficial impact on the problem.

Over the past four years, compliant retailers have faced over 30 prolonged bouts of restrictions, affecting their businesses adversely.

Vice Chairman Asad Shafi stated that the closure of commercial activities doesn’t address the root causes of smog and called for a balanced solution that doesn’t harm the economy. He criticised ad-hoc changes to notifications, highlighting the confusion and disruptions they cause.

Mehboob explained that the recent full retail shutdown in six major divisions of Punjab resulted in an extraordinary loss of Rs10 billion for retail businesses, the domestic supply chain, and tax revenues.

He proposed an alternative approach, suggesting a modification to daily retail operating hours to commence at 1 or 2 pm., allowing for a daily saving of 4-5 hours in the morning.

The retail sector proposes collaboration with the government to use social media platforms to educate the public on initiatives to reduce air pollution and its harmful effects, stressing the need for a balanced approach that considers both smog reduction and economic activities.

Worsening smog, air quality in Lahore

Lahore is currently grappling with a severe smog crisis, having recently regained its status as the world’s most polluted city on Wednesday.

The air quality index (AQI) consistently recorded above 381, denoting very unhealthy air, according to IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company.

The peak AQI, reaching hazardous levels, soared to 580 around DHA Phase 3, while the lowest recorded AQI near Aitchison College remained in the hazardous levels range at 350.

The detrimental impact of smog on human health and the environment is undeniable, exacerbating respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, and even contributing to heart attacks.

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