Industrialists warn of shutdown against SEPA’s notices

Environment agency closes 30 units, asks for installation of  effluent treatment plants

Farhan Zaheer February 23, 2017

KARACHI: Industrial associations of Karachi threatened on Thursday to shut down all their manufacturing units if the provincial government failed to stop the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) from closing down factories on environmental concerns.

“We are waiting for the Sindh chief minister to intervene. Otherwise, we will close down all industrial units in the next few days,” Pakistan Apparel Forum Chairman Muhammad Jawed Bilwani announced while speaking at a press conference that was attended by representatives of all seven industrial associations of Karachi.

Bilwani said Sepa had so far issued over 300 notices to different factories on environmental grounds, which also included the closure of over 30 units in the seven industrial zones. He said a leading export-oriented textile manufacturing unit that had annual exports of Rs10-15 billion had been shut by Sepa.

The agency has asked industries to install separate effluent treatment plants to process their waste water because it has become a big environmental hazard.

However, industry representatives were of the view that the government should first fulfil its promise of setting up five combined effluent treatment plants in the industrial zones. Bilwani insisted that the provincial government should start implementing its already-approved projects of combined effluent treatment plants as industries were ready to pay the operational cost of the plants.

A March 2016 study, which has been submitted for review of the Sindh government, found that the five combined effluent treatment plants would need an investment of Rs11.4 billion.

Sepa’s views

Sepa Director General Naeem Ahmed Mughal justified the notices sent to the industrial units. “They are a gang of polluters, we will not spare them because they are playing with human and marine life,” remarked Mughal while talking to The Express Tribune.

“At this point in time, we are only targeting the industrial concerns that are big polluters. In future, we will go after the smaller factories too.”

Sepa officials say industrialists that are protesting have never taken its past notices seriously. However, there are some responsible industrialists who have now given an undertaking that they will install effluent treatment plants in the next six to eight months.

Nobody is serious

“Whatever action Sepa is taking against the manufacturing units is on the instruction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” National Forum for Environment and Health President Naeem Qureshi told The Express Tribune.

“Nobody is serious,” he said, “the industrialists just care about their business, they do not care about the environmental degradation they cause.”

The indifference was the same at all levels whether it was the government, top industrial associations or industrialists, he added.

However, Qureshi emphasised that the issue must be resolved through dialogue between the industrialists and Sepa so that they could agree on a future road map.

Environmental activists say the environment ministry is the least important ministry for the Sindh government, which is evident from the fact that the province has no environment minister at present. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah holds the charge of environment ministry.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2017.

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