The Environment Protection Department has issued two-week notices to 14 potters in Kahna for polluting the air by using tyre scraps, artificial leather (rexine) and synthetic paper as fuel.
The potters have until just after Eid to relocate or install scrubbers in their kilns, said EPD inspector Yasir Gul, failing which they would be demolished. The kilns are located in two clusters; one group of six is situated around a school while another eight sit on two acres by wheat fields some two kilometres away. Many people including from the school had complained about the toxic fumes from the units over the last four years, he said.
Each pottery unit occupies up to two kanals and consists mainly of a kiln and a space to dry the clay pots. Gul said all the kilns lacked chimneys and emitted smoke directly into the air.
Sajjad Ali owns two of the kilns near the school and has been making clay pots there for 10 years. He says they were forced to use alternative materials because their traditional fuel wood shavings was in short supply. “Due to the power and gas shortage a lot of factories are down and we’re not getting wooden shavings from them for fuel like before,” he said.
He said that the school could not have complained about the pollution. “The kilns are lit twice a week from 8pm to midnight when the school is closed. There’s no reason for them to lodge a complaint against us,” he said.
He said he was searching for a place to relocate. “The EPD will keep interrupting my business until I shift elsewhere,” he said.
Waris Ali runs four of the eight kilns near the wheat fields near the village of Gajju Mata.
He said that they could not use gas or electricity for fuel as that would make their costs too high for their business to continue, which was struggling in any case. “I and my brothers work as labourers on the side because there’s very little business for half the year, especially during the monsoons,” he said.
Gul, the EPD inspector, said that the department had sealed eight clayware units in Qainchi Bazaar, Kot Lakhpat, for using cheap fuel last year.
Burning plastic gives off styrenes and dioxins, both of which are extremely hazardous.
Styrenes can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, cause rashes, nausea and headaches, and damage to the nervous system and reproductive system. High levels of styrene vapours can damage the eyes and mucous membranes.
Dioxins are toxic carcinogens that accumulate in body-fat and can be genetically transmitted. Burning tyre rubber and rexine also emits high quantities of sulphur and carbon.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2011.