Stone crushers fell under the weight of the law on Friday, as six plants near Taxila were fined for operating illegally. The owners of the six stone crushing plants were fined Rs30,000 each by the Punjab Environmental Tribunal for operating in the Margalla Hills near Taxila without getting approval from the Punjab Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
A tribunal headed by sessions judge Abdur Rasheed ordered the six stone crushers to make their plants environment-friendly within two months and obtain approval from the environmental watchdog.
If the violators do not obtain an NOC for their operations within two months, they will be fined Rs1,500 per day until they come into compliance.
According to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, (PEPA) which was adopted by the Punjab government in 2012 after the 18th Amendment, the owners of stone-crushing plants have to submit an initial environmental examination (IEE) or an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Punjab EPA before starting a project.
If the project is deemed environmentally safe, the EPA issues a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the owners. However, a number of stone crushers continue operating without any permissions or licences.
Over 100 stone-crushing machines operate in the hills near Taxila. The crushing plants generate high amounts of dust during the crushing, drilling and blasting of rocks. Vehicular movement for transportation of the gravel produced by the plants also contributes to particulate matter in the surrounding air. The stone crushers are issued operating leases by the Punjab Department of Mines and Minerals.
The Punjab environment laws include “dust particles” in the list of air pollutants.
The remedial measures for curbing the dust clouds produced by crushers include installing a sprinkler system.
Shaukat Hayat, District Officer, Environment, — which initiated the cases against the illegal stone crushing plants, welcomed the decision of the tribunal. He said it has set a precedent for other stone crushers spreading air pollution.
The tribunal proceedings were held at the commissioner’s offices in Rawalpindi. The three-day proceedings started on Wednesday. Overall, the tribunal heard 193 cases against poultry farms, food establishments and stone crushers regarding air and water pollution. The cases were based on Site Investigation Reports prepared by the DEO.
On Thursday, the tribunal had also imposed a fine of Rs40,000 on one Murree-based poultry farm for discharging sewage into a stream water that flows into the Rawal Lake.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2013.