As the year 2019 draws to a close, performance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in mitigating environmental pollution in Rawalpindi district remains below par as only two out of the 400 brick kilns have adapted to the environment-friendly zigzag kiln technology.
The Supreme Court had directed the agency to ensure that all the brick kilns in the district were equipped with the environment-friendly zigzag technology by December 31.
However, the EPA seems to have failed in implementing orders of the top court.
During 2019, only two out of the 400 brick kilns of the district converted to zigzag technology whereas the remaining 398 have turned a deaf ear to the agency’s directives.
The EPA also did not press the owners of the brick kilns to adopt measures aimed at protecting environment. The agency has merely issued notices to the kilns and fined them for emitting toxic smoke.
Most of the brick kilns across the district still rely on the old technology for preparing bricks by threatening public health.
Brick kilns emit toxic smoke and add to the smog phenomenon during winters.
To control smog and the overall quality of air in Rawalpindi, the district environmental watchdog had decided to issue notices to 400 brick kilns in and around the city to shut down until the new year.
However, brick kilns which have installed environment-friendly zigzag technology to reduce emissions had been exempt from the shutdown.
The notices had been issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the directions of the Punjab government to control annual smog spell which has made breathing difficult in other parts of the province.
The notices had directed 400 brick kilns in the city to close down from November 15 to December 31.
Environmentalists believe that thick plumes of smoke rising from these kilns can cause cancer and tuberculosis, while the owners of these brick kilns have refused to install modern technology which reduces emissions despite receiving several red notices.
In this regard, the EPA had decided to launch a crackdown against all such brick kilns which had failed to install zi-zag technology in their chimneys starting next year. Any kiln found without the requisite technology will be sealed.
As per the order of the Supreme Court, it is mandatory to install environment-friendly technology in all brick kilns.
EPA Deputy Director Amin Baig had told The Express Tribune that the zigzag technology was environment-friendly which converted poisonous smog into white, non-poisonous smoke and cut pollution. Moreover, it helped reduce the amount of fuel used in the furnaces of brick kilns.
Baig conceded that the technology was expensive but argued that it was extremely beneficial for the environment while it also complied with orders of the apex court.
Apart from brick kilns, around 150 stone crushing units operating in the Margalla Hills and Taxila have been causing environmental damage and health problems for residents of adjacent areas.
The EPA had directed the stone crushing units to adopt dust suppression techniques during the crushing process, however, it all lied on deaf ears.
Baig had told The Express Tribune that said that they were installing environment-friendly technology in crushing machines. Baig added that the department had prepared reports as per the orders of the Supreme Court (SC) regarding stone crushing in and around the Margalla Hills.
Also, the EPA has failed to take any action against vehicles emitting hazardous smoke.
The environment watchdog has also turned a blind eye to the health facilities disposing of medical waste inadequately. Around 200 hospitals, both public and private, still dispose of waste in the open atmosphere. The EPA has issued several notices to the hospitals but no concrete measures have been taken to end the practice.
The EPA officials claimed that the agency faced shortage of staff and facilities. The only option was to issue notices and impose fines, they added.