The Environment Protection Department (EPD) has issued notices to eight cement factories across the Punjab over the last week for failing to install devices to mitigate dust pollution levels.
The notices were issued under Section 12 and Section 16 of the Punjab Environment Protection Act 2012.
The notices were issued after a month-long survey, initiated after three cement factories in Chakwal – DG Khan Cements, Bestway Cements and Pakistan Cements – were found not using the electrostatic precipitators and air bags and devices installed in chimneys to wash down soot and cut dust levels despite having installed power generators to keep them operational. The three factories had been issued show cause notices in mid-July and given two weeks to resolve the problem.
Dandoot Cement Factory in Jhelum, Gharibwal Cements in Chakwal, Maple Leaf Cements in Mianwali and Pioneer in Khushaab have also been issued notices for not installing EPs. Fauji Cements in Attock has been issued a notice for mishandling of raw materials. The case of Flying Cements was forwarded to the Environment Tribunal after the factory management did not respond to several notices for hearing issued for not taking any measures to mitigate dust.
EPD spokesman Naseemur Rahman Shah told The Express Tribune that the only way these factories could mitigate dust emissions was to install their own power plants. Only DG Khan Cements has installed a power plant to run their units, he said. Explaining the working of electrostatic precipitators (EP), Shah said EPs and air bags tripped for 15 to 20 minutes every time the power went out.
Shah said Bestway was given a notice for drawing 340 cusecs water through 14 tube wells for its two plants rather than 30 cusecs approved for those. Excess water pumping by the factory, at about five kilometers from Katasraj shrines, was considered one of the reasons the sacred pond at the site had dried up, he said.
Chakwal District Officer (Environment) Syed Faisal Maqsood said the factory had closed one of the tube wells. Negotiations, he said, were underway with the administration to close more tube wells.
He said the Bestway administration was ‘irritated’ with the government after the Chakwal district coordination officer told them to bore 300-foot for water instead of 150-foot for the first water aquifer from where seven nearby villages get water.
Irshad Amir, the Bestway Cements general manager, refused comment.
Dr Arif Bashir, director (operations) at the DG Khan Cements, said the factory had its own power supply. He said a notice issued to them previously had been withdrawn.
Refuting EPD’s statement about the factory’s failure to install EPs, Colonel Muhammad Khan of Pakistan Cements said EPD’s objection was baseless. He said electricity consumption of the EPs was negligible.
“We can afford to run the EPs if we can afford to run the factory,” he said.
He also denied boring for ground water saying that Pakistan Cement only used surface water.
“We use spring water and have septic tanks at the factory premises for its treatment. The water is suitable for agricultural use and is discarded in 70-foot deep socket pits,” he said.
Several calls made to the offices of Maple Leaf and Flying Cements were not answered.
The drive was initiated in May after residents of a village near Choa Saiden Shah, about 22 kilometers from Kallar Kahar, complained of high dust and smoke emission. Taking notice of the problem the EPD secretary had ordered a survey of more than 10 cement factories in early July.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.
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