Officials conducting a survey of industrial units located in residential areas have so far identified 514 factories and issued notice to 30 for immediate relocation because they pose a danger to their neighbours, The Express Tribune has learnt.
A Punjab government committee recommended last month that all district coordination officers conduct surveys of industrial units in their areas, in the wake of the collapse of a factory on Multan Road in February in which dozens of workers were killed. The factory, which caved in after an apparent boiler explosion, was located in a residential area.
In Lahore, officials from seven departments in nine teams set up by DCO Noorul Amin Mengal, one for each town, began the survey on April 9. Each team consists of representatives from the Industries, Building Control, Labour, Rescue 1122, Civil Defence and Environment Protection Departments and a tehsil municipal officer.
District Officer (Industries) Chaudhry Azhar said that each team inspects about five industrial units in each of Lahore’s nine towns every day, with each team member having different responsibilities. The Labour Department official looks at labour measures, the Rescue 1122 and Civil Defence officials check for hazardous materials, the EPD official assesses the factory’s impact on the surrounding areas, and so on.
He said that so far, they had inspected 532 industrial units and issued relocation notices to 30 under the Punjab Industries (Control on Establishment and Enlargement) Ordinance of 1963 as they posed an immediate hazard to their neighbours.
Chaudhry said that chemicals and paints factories were the most dangerous as they posed extreme fire hazards. Factories with boilers were also very dangerous, he said, mentioning the chemicals, dyes and textile industries.
He said the results of the survey would be compiled and then the Punjab government would draw up a strategy for the relocation of the industries. He said that he could not say how long it would take to complete the survey.
According to EPD estimates, there are between 10,000 and 14,000 industrial units located in areas designated as residential zones in the Lahore Master Plan 2021. The department estimates that there are around 65,000 such industrial units in residential areas across Punjab.
Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Director Younas Zahid said that there were only some 800 to 900 industrial units located in industrial zones. He said that the number of factories in residential areas was rising quickly.
EPA Secretary Saeed Wahla said shifting the industries out of residential areas would be “a great challenge.” He said that in his previous posting as Faisalabad DCO, he had tried to relocate some fabrics units.
“The fabrics unit owners were asked to relocate after an industrial zone was established. But they refused, saying that it was too expensive and it would require them to dismantle the machinery, which might damage it,” he said.
He said that the government did not have the money to pay for the shifting of all the industrial units in residential areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.