The Environment Protection Department (EPD) has refused to withdraw notices issued to 254 units, mostly for dyeing and textiles, at the Quaid-i-Azam Industrial Estate (QIE) for dumping untreated effluent down the drain.
After a survey of the 378 industrial units in QIE over the course of two weeks in May, the EPD served notices on 254 units in June. Some were also issued notices for setting up units without a no-objection certificate from the EPD, which is issued after the unit presents a sustainable environmental management plan.
MI Khurram, the QIE president, met with EPD officials on Saturday and urged them to withdraw the notices issued to all but the worst offender, said the EPD officials. He also asked them to withdraw the notices issued to units established before 1997, the year the EPD was set up.
The officials said that the requests were rejected, and these units would face action at the Punjab Environmental Tribunal if they could not give an adequate explanation as to why they were dumping waste untreated.
The QIE drain joins Sattu Katla drain in Township, which subsequently joins Hadyara Drain at Raiwind Road. Only five of the 378 units at the QIE have installed waste water treatment facilities.
EPD Secretary Saeed Iqbal Wahla did, however, agree to Khurram’s request that he write to the Punjab Industrial Estate Management Company to press them to install a combined waste water treatment plant. The plant is to be set up on 19 acres of land belonging to the Health Department that the QIE is in the process of acquiring. The EPD also agreed to conduct sessions for unit owners educating them about the environmental laws and the consequences of exceeding permissible levels of pollutants in industrial waste, as set by the National Environmental Quality Standards.
Wahla urged Khurram to ask unit owners to also install individual treatment plants suitable for removing the byproducts produced by those units. He said units causing air pollution must install scrubbers. He asked the QIE administration to collaborate with the Parks and Horticulture Authority to plant trees along roads inside the estate.
QIE President MI Khurram declined to comment on the meeting with the EPD.
Noticed but not implemented
The notices were issued to textiles, knitting and dyeing units, bakeries and manufacturers of soft drinks, spare parts manufacturers, rubber and plastic units, stone crushing units, foam makers, and units making plastic bottles and carpets.
An EPD officer said that textile and dyeing units were dangerous as they dumped untreated waste rich in heavy metals, which are often poisonous or carcinogenic. Food units dispose of organic waste and additives, adding to the biochemical oxygen demand level in drain water. Carpet and stone crushing units emit high levels of lint and fine dust particles, which are damaging to the lungs.
Though their cases could be sent to the Punjab Environmental Tribunal, this does not mean that they are likely to face sanctions. Since it was set up, the tribunal has heard just 15 per cent of the cases sent its way, and only 20 per cent of the fines it has imposed have been collected.
EPD Secretary Wahla conceded that this was a poor rate, but added: “This is the best we can do. And it should not stop us from acting against the polluters.”
He said various amendments to environmental laws to give them more teeth were pending approval with the Law Department.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2012.