ISLAMABAD: After remaining dysfunctional for seven years, the country’s central lab for sampling and analysing air pollution is likely to be operationalised soon.
“On persuasion from the Pak-EPA and a letter written by Ministry of Climate Change Secretary Syed Abu Ahmed Akif, the ministry of finance has approved a supplementary grant of Rs93.3 million besides sanctioning 11 posts for laboratory’s appraising and staff,” Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director General Farzana Altaf Shah told The Express Tribune.
She said that a work order in this regard had been issued after completing all paperwork to re-operationalise the laboratory monitoring system.
“A contract of Rs12.7 million had been awarded to Maxtech Corporation for rehabilitation of fixed and mobile air quality monitoring stations besides analysers for all industrial emissions and vehicular emission analyser,” the Pak-EPA official said adding that Maxtech was expected to have started work in the first half of May.
The country’s central lab for sampling and analysis of air pollution in Islamabad had been dysfunctional for the past seven years. A special grant of Rs18 million allocated for the lab’s revival had lapsed in June 2016.
The EPA’s Central Laboratory for Environmental Analysis (CLEAN), was completed in 2007 at a cost of Rs713.37 million with help from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, it has not been operational since 2010.
Based on requests from the Ministry of Climate Change in January 2016, the finance ministry released Rs18 million to revitalise the lab. However, lax attitude of officials at the EPA and climate ministry meant that the allocated sum lapsed without being used.
The facility, which aims to form the basis of a nationwide analysis of environmental pollution and enhance the technical capacity of the environmental watchdog, consists of a main lab along with an air and water lab, a stake emission data centre and a microbiological lab with equipment capable of testing industrial and municipal waste as well as air pollution.
Equipment bought for the facility and sub-facilities, however, have been gathering dust at the EPA’s head office and provincial stations primarily because the Ministry of Environment was devolved to the provinces in 2010.
But after six years of inactivity, there was some hope when on May 30, 2016, Akif and EPA officials had announced that the lab would be revived within a week.
The scheme, however, could not materialise, allegedly because of failure on part of the equipment suppliers in fulfilling procedural requirement against cash payment.
However, sources in Pak-EPA suggest that the EPA also lacks trained staff to run the lab.
The lab currently has only three staff — a lab director, an inspector and an assistant.
But as many as 12 permanent posts from BPS-16 to 19 are lying vacant and are yet to be filled by Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC), Shah confirmed. These posts include director admin/legal/enforcement, deputy director (EIA/Monitoring), deputy director (legal/enforcement), deputy director (admin/finance), deputy director (lab/NEQS), assistant director (legal/enforcement), chemist (air, water and soil) besides of assistant director, sub-engineer and data analyst.
The FPSC, however, has advertised for two of these posts so far for recruitment.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2017.
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