Karachi Port air hazardous to health: SEPA

SHC directs Keamari SSP to take action in light of environmental watchdog’s report


Nasir Butt February 12, 2021
The victims took a boat trip and were on their way to Manora from Keamari. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI:

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the Keamari SSP on Thursday to take action on Keamari deaths, allegedly caused by a gas leak, after the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) submitted a report concluding that the quality of air at the Karachi port, the oil terminal and the port's nearby areas was injurious to health.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, was issued the directive during the hearing of a plea pertaining to the deaths.

According to the SEPA's report submitted to the court, a team of the environmental watchdog visited the port a day after the deaths were reported.

Elaborating on the team's findings, the report stated that containers of toxic chemicals were being kept at the port for the past several years, garbage heaps surrounded the oil terminal, pipeline were in abysmal condition, posing a risk of accidents, air quality at the port was highly injurious to health and ships carrying soybean and pet food were docked at the port.

The report further stated that the concentrations of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide were found alarmingly high, and standard operating procedures for unloading ships were being ignored.

According to the report, samples for testing the air quality were also collected from Railway Colony, Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Mussan Chowk and Bhatta Chowk on February 17, 2020 and February 18, 2020. Besides, the team again visited the port on December 24, 2020, and reported the presence of soybean in the air following the unloading of the legume from a ship.

Following the submission of the report, the court enquired from the investigation officer (IO) why the case was closed when it was categorised as A-class.

The IO replied that an autopsy on one of the bodies was performed and it was found that the said person had died of a drug overdose.

"No further autopsies were performed [and the case was closed]," the IO replied.

Making the observation that the police seemed to have been negligent in pursuing the case, the court stated, "No attention was paid to the statements of the victims… The police failed to fulfill its responsibility and the investigation was not conducted properly." It also observed that the gas leak was reported on February 16 and the samples for testing were collected two days later.

The court directed the Keamari SSP to take action in the case in the light of the SEPPA's report and adjourned the hearing until March 16.

At least 14 persons were killed and several others were injured, reportedly due to a gas leak in Keamari on February 16, 2020.

Also read: SEPA warns of sealing units without in-house effluent treatment plants

Records sought

Meanwhile, a two-member bench headed by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Shaikh sought the records of all cases registered against an accused, Sarmad Siddiqui, in an extortion case.

During the hearing of Siddiqui's bail plea, the court enquired from SSP Junaid Sheikh how many cases had been registered against Siddiqui.

The SSP informed the court that 15 cases were registered against Siddiqui and his accomplices.

At this, the court directed Siddiqui's lawyer to explain how come so many cases were registered against his client.

Sindh High Court has sought records of cases registered against accused Sarmad Siddiqui who was acquitted in the airport attack case.

The lawyer claimed that Siddiqui had filed a plea against Counter Terrorism Department officials and multiple cases were registered against him in retaliation.

Extending Siddiqui's bail until the next hearing on February 25, the court directed the relevant authorities to submit the records of cases registered against the accused by then.

Earlier, Siddiqui was accused and booked for facilitating banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in perpetrating an attack on the Karachi airport in 2014. He was later acquitted in the case.

Missing persons case

At another hearing of a plea seeking the recovery of missing persons, a two-member bench headed by Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto expressed annoyance when the relevant authorities failed to submit a progress report on the matter.

The court directed the focal person to submit a separate report for each case relating to missing persons.

Besides, the court sought reports on missing persons from detention centres.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2021.

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