concerns, local solutions
stands for economics
In case of pollution
For this Special Report we decided to do a piece on the legal mechanism in place, and if it was to see whether it was managing the industrial pollution in the country. We ought to have known that whatever system there is must have been totally ineffective. Why else would the Supreme Court have to take notice of the industries in capital territory violating all laws in spreading pollution of all kinds? Something definitely amiss in the system in place.
But a system we do have. The agency, the orders, the tribunals are all there but apparently nothing gets done. It's only the high courts or the Supreme Court that are able to stirs things. But the problems are complicated, we are told. Industries exist in the middle of residential localities. What preceded what is immaterial at this stage.
Majority of these industries pollute the land, air and water with high levels of toxic effluents that are spreading the most dangerous of diseases. But limitless profits remain the industrialists' sole concern. They bypass laws and law-enforcers to earn profits.
No surprise then that it is profits again which makes them divert attention to environment protection and install treatment plants in their industries. ISO certifications, the multinational companies monitoring the waste management plans of textile manufacturing units, WTO special directives for exports following NEQS etc. have all come in to people's rescue. But have they?
Not exactly it appears. The industry producing for local consumption is free from all such constraints. With no accurate data, the government is clueless about the solutions. The people meanwhile live in a polluted environment.
In their greed to make personal profits, the industrialists overlook the death traps their mills are preparing for the lay man
Pollution defined simply is the release of contaminants into the environment. In the recent years, industrial pollution that results in air, soil and water being affected has become a major concern for international forums and bodies. However, this is not a recent phenomenon. The origins of industrial pollution can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution. Even though in the beginning, no one paid much attention to the concept of social responsibility, as soon as the negative impacts of industrialization became evident, the West set about finding solutions. But in Pakistan, it was not until quite recently that the industrial sector was given a rude awakening.
Since Ayub Khan's period, the government policy focused mainly on radical industrialization with economic growth, and industrialization was promoted with the exclusion of everything else. All this resulted in environmental pollution becoming an inevitable result of the activity. Neither the government nor the industrialists thought it necessary in the course of the rapidly occurring development to come to any ethical understanding. They focused on making profit with a complete disregard for social responsibility and there were no ethical considerations that could restrain these entities. In spite of the constant pleas of organizations like WWF and other environmental bodies, it was perhaps the WTO and GATT that initiated some kind of an action from the government and the industrial sector.
The greatest threat posed by industrial pollution is the degradation of the environment because of indiscriminate and for the most part unregulated discharge of industrial waste. Among the industrial sector, the one causing the most damage are textile mills, leather tanneries, pulp and paper and steel mills. These industries contribute to environmental degradation through solid wastes, wastewater and fumes.
In the textile industry with around 670 units, water is the most consumed utility as the industries rely heavily on ground water. Around 1000-3000 cubic metres of wastewater is generated per day against a production of 12-20 tons per day, according to the environmental audits of textile industries by Environmental Technology Program for Industry (ETPI).
The wastewater contains substantial pollution in the form of organic matter and suspended matter such as fibres and grease that also contain chemicals. Wastewater is usually hot and alkaline with strong smell and colour due to the use of dyes and chemicals. This is highly toxic and the contamination observed in the wastewater is higher than the limits set by the NEQS (National Environment Quality Standards). The textile mills currently discharge the wastewater into the local environment without treatment that causes serious impacts on the land and natural water bodies. High values of BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand), the presence of PMs and oil and grease in the effluents cause depletion of oxygen which adversely affects the aquatic ecological system. The effluents also contain chromium (a carcinogenic), which has a cumulative effect, resulting in higher possibilities for entering into the food chain.
Hania Aslam, a project manager at WWF says, "The heavy metals that are used in the process of dyeing present a direct threat to human health since most of these are carcinogenic and have a cumulative effect."
"The leather tanneries use chemicals and most of the chemicals used for the preparation of skins and hides for tanning purposes are released into the environment. Tanneries generate all three kinds of waste ie liquid, air and solid. Air pollution results from generators and boilers as well as from the process with Hydrogen Sulphide and ammonia being released into the air. Though these emissions are intermittent, they are hazardous," says Javaid Cheema of CPI.
The major solid wastes that are produced are wet and dry trimmings, buffings, raw material packing and dusted curing salt. Except for the dust salt, all other solid wastes hold an attraction for the poultry feed manufacturers because of high protein content. The main problem associated with most of these wastes is their chrome content. In Punjab and Karachi, these chrome containing solid wastes are used for making leather boards and poultry feed respectively. However, the important fact that is overlooked is that during these processes the trivalent chromium in the solid wastes is converted into hexavalent chromium that is carcinogenic.
Air pollution (that includes contamination in the raw scrap material and an inadequate emissions treatment system) is the key environmental issue of the steel melting industry. Other concerns include soil and water pollution and solid waste. The major source of air pollution is the furnace which releases pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides and toxic metals. The principle air pollutant in the smoke is Particulate Matter (PM) that includes toxic metal dusts and fumes of lead, chromium, cadmium and zinc. A Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) study shows that these uncontrolled emissions have resulted in the deterioration of air quality.
The air pollutants restrict photosynthesis; reflect back solar radiation which results in global cooling, cause impairment of atmospheric visibility, increase in respiratory infections, birth defects, acid rains, and lung damage. There are also traces of lead and cadmium present in the fumes released by furnaces that cause collapse of central nervous system and degeneration of joints, lung and kidney diseases respectively.
Though some of the steel melting units have wet particulate scrubbers to remove particulates from furnace smoke, due to various factors like design problems, inadequate capacities and poor maintenance the installed systems do not operate efficiently. The most potential source of soil pollution is the open storage of scrap (containing contaminants like oil, paints etc) and hazardous matter on unpaved floors or paved surfaces with cracks which result in the seepage of contaminants to groundwater, due to rain. Since steel melting operations do not involve extensive water-based processes so water pollution is not among the major pollution issues of the steel industry.
The pulp and paper mills also contribute significantly to environmental degradation. These mills use water in large quantities. The pulp washing effluent, termed as black liquor, is the major source of pollution. The effluents from the bleaching section are another major source of pollution. Discharge of highly polluted water in large quantities also causes environmental problems and also increases financial costs for the industry because of non-compliance with NEQS. Since majority of the mills do not have treatment facilities, the effluents are discharged directly into the environment. These contain high percentages of fibres. The bleaching process generates high quantities of organochlorines which are highly toxic and persistent.
So is there any way out? Cleaner Production Institute (CPI) is an organization that has conducted environmental audits of sixteen industrial sectors and "made solution packages whose main focus is on cleaner production options and control of pollution at the source rather than at the end," says Javaid Cheema.
"CPI is currently working in collaboration with many stakeholders to reduce industrial pollution."
WWF has recently signed an MoU with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). Syed Mohammad Umair Shah of LCCI says, "We are holding talks with the government to provide loans to industries so that they can build treatment plants to recycle the wastes produced."
However, concepts pertaining to the dignity and worth of the individual and to the protection of basic human rights are still lacking from basic national thought structures. Problems of environmental destruction are recognized on the basis of the damage done to natural life-support systems, but if such damage is not understood with sufficient thoroughness, measures instituted to counteract such intrusions will not be sufficient.
Foreign concerns, local solutions
While govt regulations have failed to deliver, pure business interests are forcing industries to adopt greener practices
Over the last few years, the government of Pakistan is trying hard to make the local industry compliant with the local and international environmental laws. But unfortunately there has not been much success except in the case of industries that are into export business. This is something they are not doing wilfully. It has somewhat become binding on these industries to meet desired environmental standards as major importers are not willing to buy goods from industries proving harmful to the environment.
The latest trend all over the world is that the industrial plants having ISO 14000 certification are given preference over those not having it, by the importers. It is an international qualification acquired by industries once they meet strict environmental standards and take the level of pollution they cause to bare minimum.
One of the requirements for winning ISO 14000 certification is that the local environmental standards are also met, however strict they are. So, in order to embark on this journey there was need to devise local standards popularly called National Environment Quality Standards (NEQs). In Pakistan, the concept of developing these NEQS was introduced in 1993 aiming at establishment of both a benchmark and a tool with regards to pollution emissions.
Under the laws, the Environment Protection Agencies (EPAs) were supposed to measure, analyse and report the environmental performance of every industrial facility in the country, against no less than 48 environmental parameters. Out of these 48 environmental quality standards, 32 are related to liquid effluents and 16 to air emissions caused by industrial plants.
But soon after the formulation of EPAs, it was realised that these agencies lacked resources and skills to enforce their writ in the absence of certain legal lacunae. Another trend observed at that time was that instead of removing the objections, the concerned industry tried to get court stays and buy time for themselves. At this moment, the government decided to devise a mechanism under which the industry could be involved in the monitoring and evaluation of environmental performance. The representatives of the industry were also convinced that they would themselves be the biggest beneficiaries in case the set goals were met.
It was also realised that the industries were "likely to cooperate less with EPA inspectors and consider environmental monitoring more a hindrance than an opportunity to discover new roads to cost effectiveness."
To plug this loophole, an expert advisory committee was appointed to address technical issues related to the NEQS and environmental mentoring and reporting procedures. The committee completed its work in August 1998 and came out with 'Self-Monitoring and Reporting System for Industry' to be implemented collectively by the EPAs, the industry, affectees and other stakeholders.
The system proposed by the environmental standards committee takes into account the resources and interests of both EPAs and industries. It classifies industry into three categories A, B and C each corresponding to a specified reporting frequency. Category A industry will report their emission levels after every month, category B industry quarterly and category C industry biannually. Industrial units will get their effluent tested from a laboratory and enter the results in electronic forms coming with a software called Self-Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART).
Sheikh Ikram, a leather exporter based in Muridke, says he is fully cooperating with the EPA concerned and filing regular reports. "We have registered ourselves the EPA and filled a bond under which we are supposed to submit periodic reports on regular basis pertaining to the effluent being discharged form our factory/industrial unit during the operational activities," he says. This is purely in our interest as our foreign buyers will soon be sending their inspection teams to gauge the level of pollution caused by our plant.
Ikram says that though, of late, the concerned government officials have also realised that the country can lose its major exports if its industry does not adopt desired international environmental standards. "Now the government is partially funding collective treatment plants at industrial estates and has reduced duties on import of filteration and treatment plants imported by indiviuduals. I hope the support stays with us for long," he adds.
-- Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Eco stands for economics
The environmental landscape of the country continues to be degraded, despite the myriad legal mechanisms developed over the years
By Nadeem Iqbal
Two decades after the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that followed the promulgation of the Environmental Protection Ordinance in 1983 and sought to look after the implementation of the relevant laws, the issue of industrial pollution remains decidedly unresolved. However, the Supreme Court recently taking notice of the environmental degradation in the country is expected to bear some positive results.
Last month, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered closing down of two steels mills in the Industrial Estate of Islamabad on grounds that they did not meet the required environmental standards. The SC ordered these mills to remain closed until they adopted eco-friendly measures. However, the mill owners were not supposed to freeze the wages of their workers.
According to sources in the EPA, the SC identified eight steel melting furnaces in the Islamabad Industrial Estate and served them notices to employ anti-pollution devices. Interestingly, only four of these mills could come out with satisfactory laboratory reports. The fifth mill had an environmental improvement plan that was rejected by the SC, while two other mills did not care to reply. This led the EPA to issue the Environmental Protection Ordinance and refer the cases to specific tribunals. Eventually, the Supreme Court slapped a ban on these mills.
DG EPA Asif Shuja Khan spoke to TNS regarding the support of the Supreme Court in what he termed a 'crucial movement' to protect environment.
Shuja quoted the closing down of the above mentioned mills as a test case of controlling pollution in the federal capital that houses a total of 115 industries -- 8 steel melting furnaces, 11 re-rolling mills, 25 flour mills, 5 oil and ghee mills, 31 marble cutting and polishing units, 10 pharmaceutical companies, 2 galvanising mills, and 23 metal-working and engineering units. All these mills have the potential to pollute the environment and are causing the higher concentration of Particulate Matter (PM10) and Total Suspended Particulate (TSP). The concentration of PM10 and TSP is 2.5-10 times higher than the acceptable standards. The main reason for the pollution from melting steel furnaces is the use of the scrap consisting of spent containers of edible oils, paints, lubricants and even rubber.
The EPA recommends installation of anti-pollution devices and the use of cleaner scrap with minimum volatile content. The re-rolling mills, on the other hand, emit black smoke when run on furnace oil, particularly in winter, or when there is a shortage of natural gas. The oil and ghee industries, on the other hand, are a source of wastewater pollution that carries grease, suspended solids and effluents.
In order to help matters, Shuja added, the EPA is planning to install a monitoring system in Islamabad that will be supported by mobile air-and-water quality laboratories. The Agency will also report the daily pollution levels in different cities on the pattern of a weather forecast.
"Presently, the size of investment towards protecting the environment in the industry sector of Pakistan is about Rs 800 million per annum," he elaborated. "This investment was targeted at a cleaner production and the installation of primary treatment facilities."
"It is assumed that the growth rate of environmental investments will be in the range of 5 to 8 per cent per annum. If this rate continues, the environmental investments in the country will reach up to Rs 1.7 billion per annum by the year 2010."
In this regard, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), under the chairmanship of the prime minister, has reinforced the 2004 directive that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is mandatory for any project to be launched.
Ironically, the environmental landscape of the country is degraded despite the myriad legal mechanisms developed over the years. They include the Act of Parliament 1997; Environmental Policy; National Conservation Strategy; National Environmental Action Plan; Forestry Sector Master Plan; Action Plans on Biodiversity and Desertification; the ECNEC directive to CDWP not to recommend projects without approval from EIA, etc. The main reason being lack of finances.
The implementation of the environmental law is also selective. Although environment tribunals are established these are not fully functional. According to the Economic Survey (2005-06): "Currently, two tribunals are functioning in Lahore and Karachi. In the coming three years, more financial and manpower support will be extended in order to make them fully functional to prosecute environmental violations."
As per law
Pakistan Environmental Protection Council is the apex body that was first constituted in 1984 under the Environmental Protection Ordinance, 1983, with president of Pakistan as its Chairman. In 1994, an amendment was made in the Ordinance to provide for the prime minister or his nominee to be the head of the Council. The Council was reconstituted after enactment of the new law i.e. Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997. It is headed by the prime minister. The council is represented by trade and industry, leading NGOs, educational institutions, expert journalists and concerned ministries. As per law the council shall hold mandatory at least two meetings in a year.
It is ironic that the council has never fulfilled the requirement of this law.
-- N. Iqbal
Pakistan's Manchester not half as clean
The second biggest industrial centre of Pakistan, Faisalabad is ironically one of the most polluted cities of the country
By Aoun Sahi
Faisalabad, a city established just five years before the end of the 19th century (then called Lyallpur), has now become the third largest city of Pakistan after Karachi and Lahore. Earlier it was known for its rich agricultural land as well as for its grain market but now it has become the major textile industry centre. No wonder it came to be known as the Manchester of Pakistan.
The era of industrialisation in this part of the world began when Lyallpur Cotton Mills was established in 1934. At the time of partition in 1947 there was a great influx of Indian Muslim refugees. In 1951 when Lyallpur was declared as Industrial Zone, it led to the establishment of five more textile mills in addition to other factories.
At present, as per the data provided by the city government of Faisalabad, there are 248 textile mills and 101 hosiery mills in the city while it also has a good number of units of other factories such as oil mills, soap detergents and light engineering. The total number of sizeable factories in Faisalabad is 612 including six sugar mills and two fertilizers plants, making it the second largest industrial town in the country.
These factories, besides contributing a lot for the development of the area as well as the country, are the main source of pollution in the city.
"Faisalabad is among the most polluted cities in Pakistan mostly due to its unplanned industrialisation," maintains Nazir Ahmed Wattoo, team coordinator Anjuman Samaji Bahbood (ASB), an NGO working on environment and water issues in the city.
According to Wattoo, out of a total of 5000 units - both big and small - in the city, 90 per cent are located within the residential areas on Jhang Road, Sumandri Road, Maqbool Road, in People's Colony and Nishatabad mostly.
"These factories are not only releasing harmful pollutants in the air in the form of smoke and discharging untreated water to the Wasa sewer lines but many of the factories are pumping their hazardous waste water through the bore-holes directly contaminating underground water. They are dumping their solid waste in unauthorised sites within residential areas," says Wattoo.
At Maqbool Road, an area with textile units' concentration, the situation is much worse than imagined. The sewer was choked and stagnant water and smoke from factories combined to create a very offensive odour. Heaps of industrial garbage were visible at every 100 metres or even less. The labour in all the factories was directly exposed to all the activity.
The factory owners know very well what they are doing but do not agree to admit on record.
A study, titled 'Assessing Pollution Levels in Effluents of Industries in City Zone of Faisalabad, Pakistan', published in the Journal of Applied Sciences in 2005 reveals that concentration of toxic metals and physico-chemical parametres in effluents varied from industry to industry. In most of the cases analysed, industrial effluent samples were found to be above permissible limits. Although effluents discharged by all industries are causing serious pollution, the wastes emanating from the textile units is causing severe pollution in the city zone.
In the case of textile industry (FU) except Nitrate and Dissolved Oxygen all other parameters which were analysed during the present study were found above the recommended permissible limits. While in all other industries factors causing pollution are less as compared to the textile industry (FU) but their contribution towards pollution cannot be ignored because they are causing severe pollution of a particular variety of pollutants.
Professor Attique Khan Shahid, a senior teacher at Physics Department of Government College University Faisalabad, tells TNS that during a study he had done for some international publication, he found that relative humidity in Faisalabad increased while temperature decreased from 1994 to 2004. After 2004 the reverse action started i.e. temperature started increasing continuously and relative humidity started decreasing: "I predict that till 2012 the average annual temperature of Faisalabad can increase by more than two Celsius and that is mostly because of the pollution caused by industry that has badly disturbed Ozone layer over Faisalabad too."
Senior vice president Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries Shahzad Anwar Juhary, though claiming to be not fully aware of the consequences of industrial pollution, has no hesitation to admit that the industry in Faisalabad city is causing a lot of environmental as well as health problems. "It is because 90 per cent of our industry is located within very populous areas of the city."
He says that industrialists of Faisalabad are ready to set up a treatment plant that costs only 30 to 40 million rupees. "But the problem is that we pay billions of rupees every year to government in the name of different taxes. So we are justified in asking as to what has the government been doing for the industry and the city?" he asks.
"Now they have given us an ultimatum that we must shift our factories from residential areas to the newly formed industrial estate before January 2008. But that place does not have basic facilities like Sui gas so far," says Juhary.
According to Faisalabad Environment protection Agency officials industrial effluents have been causing all types of serious environmental damage to city's water, air and land. Farhat Abbas Kamoka, deputy district officer environment Faisalabad, tells TNS that in Faisalabad effluent of only one industrial unit contains less hazardous material and pollutant than the WHO specified limits. "The effluents of all other industrial units contains two to three times more pollutants (including nickel, zinc, copper, iron, temperature, ph, acidity, alkalinity, chloride, fluoride, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), nitrate, nitrite, Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), phosphorous, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium etc.) than international standards."
The situation, according to him, is alarming. "The intensity of danger can be gauged by the fact that Mamoon Kanjan, a town some 60 kilometers away from Faisalabad, is facing severe environmental consequences just because the Madoana Drain (the drain that disposes off Faisalabad's waste waster -- mostly of a chemical factory -- into Chenab River) passes right in the middle of this town," Farhat tells TNS. He also says that a study -- Two Cities Investigation of Air and Water Quality (Gujranwala and Faisalabad) done by JICA and EPA in 2004 -- reveals that the quantity of Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) and respirable particulate (PM10) was high at all sampling sites in Faisalabad compared to WHO guidelines and International Standards, noise pollution at various locations in Faisalabad crossed the NEQS of 85dB. Wastewater samples collected from Faisalabad were high in COD, BOD and iron than NEQS permissible limits. Toxic metals in a few samples were also high than NEQS limits while 68 per cent samples of drinking water collected from different locations of city were found contaminated and undrinkable.
"It is not right that EPA is doing nothing to stop the industrialists from polluting the environment. More than 30 cases of different factories on charges of polluting the environment from Faisalabad are in tribunal while around 20 are in the pipeline. If proved to be guilty, they could get seven years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs2 million," he tells TNS. Though it is on record that no industrialist in Faisalabad ever got punished on charges of pollution.
Industrial pollution is also a major health risk in Faisalabad. According to Dr Amjad Ali Rana, a senior teacher at Community Medicine department of Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad: "Here the diseases have some connection or the other with environmental pollution like skin diseases, asthma, TB, heart diseases, hepatitis and even cancer. They are found in greater ratio than any other city in Punjab."
He also reveals some terrifying consequences of industrial pollution in Faisalabad. "According to findings of different studies, industrial pollution in Faisalabad is not only disturbing the Ozone layer in atmosphere, it is also becoming a source of its production on ground. On ground level ozone simply works as a poison. In winter it forms smog (smoke+fog) along with many other hazardous emissions of industries. This is why the death rate among infants and elderly people is more in four winter months in Faisalabad as compares to other eight months of the year."
-- A. Sahi
With Cleaner Production techniques, it is possible to implement prevention of waste production at source and at a much less cost than effluent treatment facility
By Aziz Omar
Till the turn of the century, the Industrial sector of Pakistan had largely employed a 'good riddance, not my problem' approach to disposing off industrial by-products, especially untreated waterwaste. Rivers such as the Rohi nullah near Kasur had turned into chemical cesspools, containing extremely high levels of Chromium and other toxic substances used in leather processing. It shouldn't come as a surprise if such discharges of effluent have spawned new and mutated species of life forms -- imagine fish walking on land and wreaking their revenge.
Official initiatives such as the Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance along with the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) had been promulgated in 1983. However, it took a good ten to fifteen years for any sort of practical implementation of its policies and reforms.
The environmental hazards that emerged since the advent of international industrialisation had not been weighing upon the conscience of the investors and participatory governments. It was only with the campaigning efforts of organisations such as Green Peace along with public awareness that legislation was introduced in international trade agreements and adopted by the WTO.
"In our case, it has been the threat of restricting imports from Pakistan by International Brands such as Levis and Calvin Klein that has prompted local textile manufacturers to incorporate environmental and labour friendly reforms," comments Adnan Iqbal, Marketing Head Paramount Spinning Mills Limited.
"These companies send their own team of specialists and engineers who monitor our entire manufacturing process and ensure that waste management regulations are being followed to the hilt," adds Adnan who has been involved in marketing ready-made apparel for the past several years and has been in direct contact with international buyers.
Azheruddin Khan, who is currently the Managing Director of National Environmental Consulting, has been involved with projects regarding the implementation of Cleaner Production technologies in major industrial sectors. "The Environmental Technology Program for Industry (ETPI) was conceived and implemented in the latter half of the 1990s. It focused on advocating a structural shift from end-of-pipe waste treatment technology towards radical design changes at the manufacturing stage, thus minimizing waste production."
With regards to end-of-pipe treatment, the typical option is of treating industrial sewage water through pH level neutralization, de-ionizing and removal of toxic metallic and organic compounds. However, with Cleaner Production techniques, it is possible to implement prevention of waste production at source. This can be achieved by more energy, skilled and conscientious labour force and improved means of recovery and reuse of raw materials and water resource management.
"Though our programme was successful in impressing upon a number of industrial units such as in the chemical and sugar mills to adopt Cleaner Production solutions, the time frame was only from 1996 to 2001-02. We passed on our research and proposals to the governmental regulatory departments but sadly the incumbents did not follow up and advance the ETPI initiative," says Azher.
The outcome of ETPI is deplorable, even though it was a joint project of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and the Government of The Netherlands. Azher further claims that private companies such as Engro Chemical are in direct contact with consulting firms such as NEC and are continuously exploring various Clean Production alternatives to conventional processes.
A case in point is of Shakarganj Mills Limited located in Jhang in the central Punjab. As their primary product is refined cane sugar, the waste materials such as molasses and water are generally discharged in containment ponds. However, the treatment and recovery of water for recycling was being hampered by fly ash and oil residues on the surface. ETPI conducted an environmental audit and ascertained that excessive wastage was occurring due to labour and manufacturing inefficiency. It then proposed Cleaner Production solutions that would achieve similar results and legislative compliance to an end-of-pipe water treatment plant. And the CP recommendations came at a much lower price tag too, that of $50,000-$70,000 as compared to a hefty $1.25 million for an effluent treatment facility. Much of the recommendations involved segregating various components of the waste output such as mud, oil and water through improved filter and skimmer designs as well as routine maintenance of pumps, pipes, conveyors and other vessels.
The problem of voluminous amounts of liquid waste being produced is compounded by the over-usage of water in washing and cleaning the materials such as in the textile industries. "The company that I work for now has very technologically advanced machines for, say, the stone-washing of denim apparel. They make use of a precise recipe of inputs such as water and energy to optimise performance and minimise wastage," explains Adnan Iqbal.
"However, the firm US apparel in which I was previously employed, had a water treatment plant. But it was only operated in the instance of a visit from the foreign agencies as it cost them something about Rs 25,000 daily to run."
The problem of releasing massive amounts of untreated industrial waste into the ecosystem is mostly of lack of awareness and shortsightedness. The government has turned an absolute blind eye to monitoring the impact of environmental hazards.
And so it is only through the hidden blessings of our companies competing for a share in the international market that our ailing environment can be saved from complete and utter disaster.
Despite existence of a comprehensive judicial mechanism, environmental laws are not being enforced fully
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) 1997 defines a comprehensive judicial mechanism under which competent authorities can hear and decide environmental disputes and complaints. It calls for setting up of Environment Protection Tribunals (EPT) under its Section 22, comprising three persons, namely the Chairman, Member Legal and Member Technical.
Under the law, the EPTs have the power to adjudicate on complaints lodged by the federal and provincial Environment Protection Agencies (EPAs), private individuals providing they have issued notices to the concerned EPAs, nazims and private parties aggrieved from the actions of EPAs. The EPTs have been functioning since 1999 and decided many cases, there have been several factors affecting their smooth functioning.
First of all, the lack of awareness among the masses about the role and functions of the environment tribunals has limited the role of EPTs. Not only the masses, many member of the legal fraternity are also not fully aware of the powers of the EPTs. The aggrieved persons seek justice from avenues other than the environment tribunals, and approach them (the tribunals) after wasting a lot of time and effort. As EPTs are appellate bodies, they cannot play their proper role until and unless the executive bodies, EPA for example, are active. But unfortunately in Pakistan, EPAs are not vigilant and hardly act in cases of environmental degradation caused by different entities including the industry.
In a recent study (sponsored by Pakistan government and some donors) on the 'Implementation Mechanisms of Environmental Protection Regulation', it was found out that there is a dire need for improving the level of interaction between the EPAs and the EPT. The role of EPA in the context of the tribunal is primarily of a feeding agency, it forwards complaints against the non-compliance of the Environment Protection Orders (EPOs) that it has issued. The EPOs are the orders issued by EPAs aimed at curbing the effects of pollution caused by any activity.
"This lack of co-ordination often results in EPAs' orders being challenged on legal grounds, exploitation of legal lacunae by offenders and preparation of weak cases by EPA," says Jawad Hasan Advocate, a leading environment law practitioner. Citing the example of Punjab EPA, he says: "The authority has issued 176 EPOs since its inception of which 108 have been forwarded to the Environmental Tribunal, Lahore due to their non-implementation. This shows that 61 per cent of the EPOs have failed to achieve their results."
Jawad says most of the EPOs were issued to the industrial sector and had many shortcomings, making them ineffective to a great extent. For example, he says many EPOs were drafted and issued by non-authorised persons whereas some lacked details of the violation or proof of violation. Besides, the failure of the issuing authorities to enclose certified lab tests, citing of non-applicable sections of PEPA, failure to give proper and timely notice, sending of EPO at incorrect address, non-mentioning of the right to appeal under section 22 of PEPA were also noticed, Jawad adds.
Another major hurdle he says is the non-empowerment of union and town level officials to take action against pollutors. He says the powers of the environment department was also devolved with the promulgation of local governments ordinance but the officials at the local level were not delegated powers.
Jawad says that the majority of the cases against the industry are being filed by the villagers and associations falling in close vicinity of these establishments.
The superior courts, he says, have recently taken notice of incidents of violation of environmental laws which has sent a clear message to the industrial sector. That is why the business groups planning to set up industrial plants are issuing Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports before launching their projects.
For example, a multinational company had to dismantle its plant once the Sindh High Court observed that its setting up would have an adverse impact on the surrounding environment, says Jawad.