Following the drive against air polluters, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has started lodging cases with the environmental tribunal against those steel mills causing air pollution in the provincial capital, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to details, the EPA had completed inspection of over 350 steel mills operating in different parts of the city. The CDGL had administered the monitoring operation following the directions of the EPA.
Sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today that the department was receiving complaints by the citizens of the provincial capital that the steel mills operating in their areas were polluting air badly.
The sources underscored that over 350 steel mills were currently working in the city and most of them were polluting air, according to a departmental inspection.
Following the numerous complaints filed by citizens, the EPA held a meeting on January 25 and decided to deal with the violators with an iron fist. For the said purpose, the EPA formed five special teams to monitor the steel mills failing to abide by the environmental protection laws.
When contacted, District Officer (DO) Environment Lahore Anjum Riaz told Pakistan Today that nearly 350 steel mills were currently working in Lahore. Out of these, 340 were present in northern Lahore and most of them were found using sub-standard fuel in the burning process. He said that the department raided and closed such steel mills many times in the past, but they always started reopened after paying fines.
Anjum further said that the department has sent cases of 30 steel mills to the environmental tribunal who were responsible for polluting air. “The department has lodged cases against them under the Punjab Environmental Protection Act (PEPA)” he said, adding that reports of other steel mills were also being analysed. He further said that some steel mills’ owners were backed by political bigwigs.
Monitoring Laboratory and Implementation Director Tauqeer Ahmad Qureshi said that the EPA came to know about a number of steel mills located in northern Lahore that were causing serious environmental hazards and most were operating in residential areas so these were directly related to health of dwellers.
Majority of the steel mills use sub-standard fuel, used-tyres and restricted burning material, so the plants can be kept running, he said. He added that these mills release pollutants such as sulphur dioxides, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and toxic metals. He further said that the hazardous gases of the steel mills were the major cause of increasing number of cancer patients in the city.
The department has constituted five different teams, each comprising four members, and all teams would be equipped with testing laboratories, he added.
Spokesperson of the EPD Naseem ur Rehman Shah, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that sub-standard fuel and used tyres were much cheaper than electricity and gas, that is why steel mills relied on this alternative energy.
The department had already issued notices to the steel mills to observe the laws and use the energy according to the environmental laws but they paid no heed, he informed, adding that the EPA has started action against violators under section 16 of PEPA.