Industries in buffer zone put residents’ health at risk

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ISLAMABAD – In violation of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) rules and regulations, the elimination of the buffer zone between the industrial and residential areas in sectors I-9 and I-10 is posing a threat to the health of the capital’s residents.
In Islamabad’s master plan, the Industrial Area is isolated from residential areas by a buffer zone, but later CDA had converted the buffer zone into a commercial area and industries were constructed amidst populated area, with the inhabitants becoming the direct victim of polluted air and water from the industries.
It is learnt that there are seven kinds of factories operating in the Industrial Area. They include steel melting units, re-rolling mills, flourmills, oil and ghee industries, marble cutting and polishing units, pharmaceutical firms and metalworking and engineering units.
An official in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on condition of anonymity told Pakistan Today that out of the seven steel melting units, only a few had managed to acquire the anti-pollution equipment, which have now become partially non-operational because of lack of proper maintenance and other problems.
“The remaining units are operating without observing any safety measures to reduce air and water pollution,” he said, adding that anti-pollution equipments were only turned on when the owners suspected a visit from EPA officials.
These units produce metal dust, slag and gaseous emissions besides discharging untreated effluent in the main drain that eventually falls into River Soan. Air emissions, including nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide, are being emitted by oil and ghee units, which are also producing wastewater pollutants, including grease, soaps and suspended solids.
EPA Director General Asad Ullah Faiz confirmed the suspicion that the anti-pollution devices were not be used, adding that on the directives on supreme court they had asked all industrial units to start online dust and smoke monitoring system, which would help control the emission.
“We will visit these industries next week and if they do not have the online monitoring system, we will take strict action,” he said.
When contacted, CDA Assistant Director Environment Sajjad Ali Shah said that the proposal to shift all industrial units, currently operating in sectors I-9 and I-10, to the upcoming sector of I-17 was still in the planning phase.