KARACHI: The Supreme Court-mandated Judicial Commission on Water and Sanitation on Friday ordered the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to inspect 21 industrial units, including several food factories, in the Port Qasim Authority's (PQA) industrial zone to check if their in-house effluent treatment system was functional.
The commission's head, Justice (retd) Amir Hani Muslim, gave a week to Sepa to conduct the inspection and submit report.
PQA officials had admitted before the commission head during his visit to the industrial zone last month that most of the industries in the zone were releasing toxic effluent into the sea, causing environmental pollution and harming marine life. Later, the judicial commission ordered the industries to install in-house effluent treatment plants and septic tanks.
The owners and representatives of the 21 units claimed that they had established the in-house effluent treatment system, to which Justice (retd) Muslim asked Sepa to check whether those systems were functioning and were up to the environmental standards.
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The commission also directed Sepa to visit AG Fisheries, Pak Exports, Akhlaq Enterprise, Kanpa International and Manzar Marine. Owners of these factories had allegedly not allowed the agency's officials to inspect their premises. The five factories were directed by the commission to establish inhouse treatment system within two months if the agency's officials asked them to do so after their visit.
Owner of Akhlaq Enterprise, Muttahida Qaumi Movement - Pakistan leader Syed Ali Raza Abidi, appeared before the commission to represent his factory. The commission head asked him why a Sepa team was not allowed by the factory's management to inspect it. Abidi informed the judicial commission that he was unaware of the incident and he would ask the management about it. The Justice (retd) Muslim told the former MNA that he had better asked the management prior to appearing before the commission.
Sepa officials alleged that the management of Abidi's factory was not cooperating with the agency, to which the former MNA asserted that the factory already had a septic tank that was regularly inspected. The commission head remarked that if a septic tank had already been installed, it was satisfying, otherwise, a septic tank needed to be installed in two months.
Justice (retd) Muslim also directed a senior research officer of the Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources, Dr Ghulam Murtaza, to inspect MA Muhammadi and Legend International. Muslim Muhammadi, owner of the former industry, claimed before the commission that two septic tanks had been operating in the factory and refuted a Sepa report which claimed that his unit lacked a septic tank. The research officer was directed to visit MA Muhammadi and submit a report in three days.
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To a query, the environment secretary informed the commission head about the names of members of the Sepa team that claimed to have visited MA Muhammadi. Justice (retd) Muslim called the team at the rostrum and warned them that they would be sent home if their claims regarding septic tanks at MA Muhammadi were found fictitious.
For the other industrial unit, Legend International, Dr Murtaza was directed to assess necessity for setting up a treatment system.
During the past several hearings, the judicial commission has been warning the industrial units that they would be sealed if they do not install effluent treatment system within the stipulated time. The release of untreated effluent from factories into the sea is a cause of concern because it is polluting seawater and killing marine life as well as damaging the beauty of Karachi's coastline. The factory owners have been submitting affidavits to the commission pledging that they would complete the construction of effluent treatment plants and septic tanks within the deadline.
Owners of many factories tried to evade the commission's hearings and did not appear before it despite summons, which forced the commission to start issuing warrants. During Friday's proceedings as well, the commission issued bailable warrants for the owners of Sindbad and AU fisheries. The police was ordered to produce them before the commission today (Saturday).
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