KARACHI: Amid a dispute between industrialists and the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) over the construction of effluent treatment plants, the losers are the citizens and the environment.
Industrialists in Karachi have threatened to shut down their industries in the city and eventually move them abroad if Sepa does not stop the action against them.
In the last month-and-a-half, the environmental watchdog shut down 30 industries and issued notices to 300 others for lack of treatment plants and releasing untreated effluent and wastewater directly into the Lyari River.
Industrialists decry SEPA’s action against factories
According to Jawed Bilwani, spokesperson of the All Karachi Industries Association, industrialists are ready to cooperate with the government but believe the treatment meted out to them is very harsh.
Responding to a question about installing effluent treatment plants at each factory, Bilwani told The Express Tribune that the Sindh government had already announced construction of four Combined Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in SITE, Korangi, North Karachi and the Super Highway. He said the PC-1 was prepared at the start of 2016 at a cost of Rs11 billion.
However, if industrialists install effluent treatment plant themselves, which are costly and require a lot of space, and later the government also installs their announced CETPs then our investment will go to waste, he said.
Bilwani said it is better for the government to install these plants on their own or at least inform industrialists whether or not they plan to do it. These laws are new, while our industries are older than the creation of Pakistan therefore it will take time for us to adjust with new law, he added.
Hyderabad hospital gets ‘closure orders’ for flouting environmental protection laws
Sepa’s action against industries has been spurred by the Supreme Court.
According to National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) president Muhammad Naeem Qureshi, the citizens are suffering due to the negligence of both industrialists and the Sindh government.
He added that this is the time for the government to draw a line and announce the construction of their own treatment plant or else bind industrialists to install their own.
What Sepa is doing is just saving itself from the Supreme Court so that during the course of the hearing it will be able to show its performance, he claimed. They should focus on long-term planning but that is never their priority, lamented Qureshi.
Saving The Environment: Ghotki DC inaugurates plantation drive
Fifty million gallons of sewerage is being dumped into the sea daily and we have turned this blue water black, he said, adding that the dark grey sand of Clifton beach is an example of this.
He pointed out the dearth of marine life within a 20 nautical mile radius of the beach, adding that this is affecting the seafood business and the ecosystem. It could reach a 50 nautical mile radius if we continue to ignore it, he warned.
Sepa’s director-general said that they are taking action against the industries who continue to spread pollution in the city. He added that a few industrialists are ready to install effluent treatment plants but those who are not willing have to come under the law.
He added whatever action Sepa has taken is according to the powers conferred to it under Section 21 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014.
Talking about the CETPs, he said the government will work on its end but there is a major responsibility on the industrialists as well. He said the CETP construction is in process.
Winds of change: ‘Climate change leading to environmental disasters’
Rift between two governments
According to Karachi Water and Sewerage Board official Saleem Siddiqui, who, along with ministry of industries developed the PC-1 of the proposed CETPs, the Sindh government is very keen to take up the project but there are some delays from the federal government.
On the other hand, industries secretary Abdul Raheem Soomro said the project is supposed to be initiated on a 50/50 basis as its cost is going to be shared by Sindh and federal governments.
He added that the project is supposed to be completed in three years but judging by the federal government’s attitude, they are unconcerned about a city that earns them trillions annually.
He said the project file was forwarded five months ago and has been lying with climate change secretary Abu Akif, who is supposed to forward it to the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) which comes under the federal ministry of planning, development and reform.