Weak enforcement: Pak-EPA’s lacklustre performance contributing to environmental damage

Many projects in Islamabad were executed without environmental assessment reports

Shahzad Anwar July 03, 2015
Many projects in Islamabad were executed without environmental assessment reports.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has failed to mitigate or reverse environmental damage caused by a host of recently-launched and completed development projects in Islamabad.

Staff tussles, conflicts of interest, and weak implementation of environmental laws have further dented overall performance.

The agency has failed to check the negative impacts Capital Development Authority (CDA) projects and private housing societies.

It is the prime responsibility of the Pak-EPA to take action against violators and polluters by filing cases against them in environmental tribunals, and the watchdog remains sluggish in its pursuance of pending cases.

It has also failed to implement environmental laws.

Slow promotions and dull career growth has been another impediment that has get in the way of some staffers.

Some staffers said that they have been working at the same post for the last 20 years, while ‘illegal inductions’ and ‘non-merit appointments’ were promoted ahead of them.

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“EPA officials continue to illegally issue no-objection certificates (NOCs) without seeking environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports. No action has been taken against those who initiated different projects without NOCs,” said a former EPA employee.

“The authority’s administration does not facilitate its employees, nor does it do anything for their career development, providing an opportunity for some elements within the organisation to abuse the situation,” he said.

The Pak-EPA has also failed to take advantage of multi-billion dollar foreign-funded projects such as EMS, ABCD, NBC.

Similarly, the government had to rollback the CDWI project due to Pak-EPA’s inefficiency.

Interestingly, Pak-EPA had to seek help from the SUPARCO to compile a report on the state of environment.

“After the 18th Amendment, the EPA’s role has largely been limited to Islamabad,” EPA Director-General Dr Khurshid Khan said, while adding that the agency has to work with a limited staff.

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He admitted that the organisation has some internal issues such as career stagnation. He said that a summary has been prepared, and if approved, it would create a vibrant and strong organisation.

He said that in the past, the EPA was run in ‘project mode’ and people trained for EMS projects were not regularised. “There is a need to convert this project into a permanent one,” he said.

Dr Khan said that the authority currently lacks a trained chemist to manage its lab operations. He said that after the 18th Amendment, the agency’s enforcement side has become almost non-existent. He admitted that the environmental tribunal had been non-functional in the past, but added that it is now back online and several cases have been filed against polluters in the last two months.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2015.