AS winter sets in across Pakistan it brings with it the inevitable challenge of fog, which significantly disrupts road, rail, and air travel. To mitigate the impacts of this yearly occurrence, a comprehensive strategy is necessary.
Enhancing communication between authorities and travellers is crucial. Real-time updates via hotlines, websites, social media, and news outlets can enable commuters to make informed decisions. Since fog and worse still, smog, have become permanent features of the cooler months, the government must proactively plan to combat these issues. This includes acquiring special aircraft for artificial rains whenever needed. Recently, the Punjab government sourced such aircraft from the UAE, but the measure was only temporary. A permanent solution with readily available artificial rain equipment is needed. Furthermore, Lahore and Islamabad airports are equipped with the advanced Instrument Landing Systems (ILS CAT-III(B)) an anti-fog system enabling airplanes to land at low visibility levels. Such technology must be installed across the country`s airports. Exploring additional technological solutions, such as Ground-Based Augmentation (GBAS) and Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems (A-SMGCS), can improve visibility on runways and taxiways, thus reducing flight delays and cancellations.
On the ground, enhancing road and rail infrastructure to combat fog-related disruptions is essential. Mainstreaming the installation of reflective road markings, adequate street lighting, and fog detection systems can improve visibility on highways. Similarly, the railway sector can benefit from improved signalling systems and fog-safe devices, maintaining the safety and regularity of train services. In addition, there should be an emphasis on creating a robust contingency plan for transportation services during foggy conditions. This involves not just rerouting and rescheduling, but also ensuring that there are enough resources, such as additional buses and trains, to manage the increased passenger load when services resume normal operations. Public awareness and safety measures also play a vital role. Campaigns focusing on safe driving practices in foggy conditions, such as reducing speed, using fog lights, etc can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
Collaboration with the Met department for accurate forecasts can assist in planning, including the scheduling or rerouting of flights, trains, and buses during times of minimal fog occurrence. Furthermore, investing in research to better understand fog formation in different regions of Pakistan can lead to more targeted and effective solutions. Additionally, authorities should consider implementing variable message signs (VMS) on major highways. These electronic signs can provide real-time information about fog conditions and alternative routes, thereby enhancing safety. The use of thermal imaging cameras in fog-prone areas can also aid drivers and authorities by providing clearer images than those captured by standard cameras in low-visibility situations. In embracing these comprehensive strategies, Pakistan can effectively turn the challenges posed by fog into opportunities for growth and innovation in its transportation and public safety sectors.