LAHORE: The federal government is going to set up a combined effluent treatment plant at Khurianwala Industrial Estate, Faisalabad to meet the requirements of the international market and comply with environment protection standards of the World Trade Organization (WTO), The Express Tribune has learnt.
The project is estimated to cost Rs3.617 billion, of which Rs534.9 million will come as foreign investment, according to an official close to the development. The plant is projected to be completed by 2015.
Domestic funds will be shared by the federal and Punjab governments whereas technical and financial assistance will be taken from a foreign donor agency or country on soft terms and conditions.
With the setting up of the first combined effluent treatment plant, the industrial units in the estate would be able to save 42% of their investment cost which they otherwise would have borne had they installed individual treatment plants on their own, the official said.
The globalisation drive and dismantling of tariff barriers have forced the textile industry to meet eco-labelling standards, which say that products should be manufactured in an environment-friendly system and that is not possible without an effluent treatment plant.
As the manufacturers and exporters cannot make such a huge investment, the Ministry of Textile Industry is going to invest in this multi-billion-rupee project to shield the industry from setback in the international market.
A survey reveals that textile units of Faisalabad mostly use chemicals like detergents, dyes, soda ash, salts, acid and enzymes and discharge wastewater into municipal drains and rivers without any treatment, causing serious damage to water quality and the landscape in surrounding areas.
Other major environmental impacts include release of solid waste, gaseous emissions, noise pollution in processing units as well as health risks to workers.
Over a million tons of industrial effluent is generated annually in the country, but it lacks a mechanism to implement the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 that binds the industrialists to treat the pollutants. These are discharged into natural streams, irrigation canals, seepage drains or adjoining agricultural land without treatment.
Apart from damaging the quality of surface water, groundwater and fertile land, the wastewater ultimately finds its way to the food chain.
Textile is the largest export industry and its products mainly go to the big markets of the US and European Union. However, in the absence of eco-labelling, most of the exporters face its implications and remain vulnerable to losing export markets.
To cope with this problem, the Planning Commission held a nationwide survey to find suitable sites for setting up combined effluent treatment plants. Seven potential sites were marked for the plants in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad industrial estates and Khurianwala estate will be the first where the plant will be set up.
The plant will treat wastewater and each stakeholder will release the waste according to the requirement of the treatment facility. The centralised facility will resolve the problem of lack of space for treatment plants at individual units, reduce their treatment cost and recycle the wastewater for possible reuse.
“The project will be a positive step towards cleaner environment and remove the hurdles coming in the way of textile exports,” the official said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2013.