Future of online pollution monitoring system at stake

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The future of modern online pollution monitoring system capable of watching air and water waste pollution in the country is at stake due to insufficient funds.
The machinery worth millions of rupees provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has also been lying unutilised for the last nine months and the project of Rs 1.2 billion which is of great importance needs proper attention of the higher authorities.
An official privy to the project on Thursday said around 27 employees hired and trained to run the project in an efficient manner are also worried about their future.
There are 16 employees working in the federal capital, four in Lahore, as many in Karachi and three in Peshawar.
The official said the project helped EPA to gather continuous pollution data of the last five years. The data is now available and would also help the experts to prepare policy on environment.
“The closure of project means wastage of huge amount spent on precious machinery and training of staff for the purpose,” the official said. He said Japan had provided funding for the project and imparted training of the staff and added they wanted that the project should run to achieve the desire results. It was also informed that the state-of-the-art system installed to monitor environmental pollution was not showing any results as the last air quality index was released a few months ago. It is only lack of funds which is hampering maintenance of the system.
The official data shows that the last air quality index was released in August last year, after which EPA was not able to do so because the funds required for the purpose were not available.
The official said that after the devolution of the Environment Ministry, the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) refused to own the Environment Monitoring System (SMS) and released no funds. He said laboratories had also stopped working for lack of funds while it had become difficult to even pay monthly salaries to the staff and clear bills of petrol and diesel but thanks to present regime which has provided funds for the salary of the staff till June.
When contacted, a senior official of Central Laboratory for Environmental Analysis (CLEAN) said the Ministry of Environment had signed an agreement with JICA to develop a system to monitor environmental pollution of Rs 1.2 billion under which JICA had not only agreed to provide funds but also impart training to the officials of the ministry. The agreement aimed at strengthening the technical capacities of EPA for effective environmental monitoring of air and water and formation of monitoring plans, analysis and quality.
The EPA established Central Laboratory for Environmental Analysis (CLEAN) on its premises in Islamabad, which consisted of three sections, including analytical, field measurement and sampling.
CLEAN was equipped with modern computerized analytical equipment, having facilities for analyzing pollutants in air, water and soil besides toxicity levels in foodstuffs and other products.
He said latest machinery is available which needs funds for maintenance. He said as soon as they got the funds, they would start working and issue the air quality index of Islamabad. He said PC-4 for the project has also been submitted to the ministry.