LAHORE: Amid growing concerns over smog in Lahore, the Punjab environment authorities have sealed more steel mills for contributing to the unusual weather, bringing the total number of such units to 38.
The Punjab Environment Department in collaboration with the district administration closed down several mills on Monday two days after a crackdown began against such industries and 19 units were forced to shut down operations.
However, the closure of steel mills along with rationing of gas supply to the industry has offered an opportunity to the profiteers to jack up prices by 15-20% in the past 10 days. A market survey shows the prices of most steel products, including angle iron, steel bars and steel sheets, have jumped up to Rs64,000 to Rs65,000 per tonne.
A dealer, Ali Muhammad, told The Express Tribune an increase of Rs6,000 to Rs10,000 was recorded in steel products prices owing to the limited supply and high demand of steel products. “The surge has been witnessed mainly in local products as prices of graded steel items, manufactured with imported raw materials, are stable in the market,” he added.
Pakistan Steel Rerolling Mills Association Vice-Chairman Asmat Pervaiz said the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines had curtailed gas supply to the steel industry for just three days a week.
The industry has now switched to alternate fuels, like coal, but the environment department has launched a crackdown against steel millers, further reducing production.
He added the environmental concerns about smog were valid but the government should differentiate between good and bad mills. Large manufacturing units have already installed gasification plants, which hardly have any negative impact on environment, as over the years the country has witnessed gas shortage.
Asmat said the steel industry in Punjab, especially in Lahore and Gujranwala, constituted 70% of the steel manufacturing in the country. Most of these units were small, operating in unregulated regime.
“Nearly 80% of these units are running on coal powder, tyre scrap, used plastic and other harmful substances, but the government never takes action against them,” he said. “After smog hit the city, the government started crackdown against them, which should not be stopped.”
But, he added, the government should help the small units to upgrade their methods of productions.
Lahore DCO Capt (retd) Muhammad Usman said the government would continue its operation against the factories causing environmental pollution. He also issued notices to 10 steel manufacturing units for improving their production practices.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2016.
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