The irresponsible officials of the Environment Protection Department (EPD) have left their laboratory equipments to rust, so that they can demand the new ones, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Currently, EPD has eight environmental labs in eight districts of Punjab including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rahim Yar Khan, Shiekhupra and Rawalpindi. The lab in Lahore has been in place since the establishment of the department, the Multan lab was established in 2005 under an Annual Development Project (ADP) scheme while labs in other six districts were established in 2009. These all labs came into force under Section 2 (e) of PEPA-1997 for environment sampling, testing and analysis while the department declared these labs as certified under Section 6(k) of PEPA-1997.
Sources said that except for the labs in Lahore and Multan, all other labs were not fully functional due to substandard purchase of equipment to keep them functional. Substandard and fake lab equipment and result in lab not working to its optimum level and it did not even meet the criteria of Lab Certification Regulations 2000. The anti corruption is investigating the matter but due to involvement of big wigs in procurement process of fake equipment, the investigation process is not fair, the sources added.
Pakistan Today has observed that the EPD has obtained new equipment instead of getting the old ones fixed which caused the loss of millions of rupees of the public money.
Sources said that EPD received lap equipment from like Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS), Low Temperature Incubator (LTI), Fermentor and Shaking Incubator from Institute of Agriculture Science, Punjab University, Lahore under Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), instead of utilising, EPD left the said equipments for rusting.
Sources added that Punjab University requested the EPD to retain the equipments so students can utilise them for research purpose but EPD is reluctant to give them back to the university. These equipments are worth Rs four millions which are used to test metal analyses in environmental samples, sources said.
Environmental College Punjab University Principal Dr Sajid Rashid confirmed that the university had demanded EPA to hand over the said equipment so that it can be used by the students.
Sources said that the labs in Multan and Lahore are also not working at the desired potential as both labs have no capacity to test Industrial Gaseous Emissions, Stack Dust and ambient air monitoring while the waste water samples are being tested for basic parameters.
Lab in Lahore was upgraded to test all parameters by Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) with the collaboration of Pak EPA in 2007. JICA enhanced the capacity of EPA Lab Lahore for monitoring all 104 National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) for which it donated Rs 280 million. Initially JICA experts trained the EPA staff and run the lab which was handed over to EPD in 2011 in functional condition. The EPD later received Rs 82 million under ADP scheme (2011-2016) to remain the equipment functional but department fail to keep the equipment up to date.
The equipments donated by JICA were Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS), Gas Chromatograph (GC), Ion Chromatograph (IC) were worth of Rs 20 million from which GC is use to assess the pesticide level in drinking water and waste water samples. Currently EPD has no data about the level of pesticides in drinking water.
Sources said that EPD has recently purchased new equipment Inductive Couple Plasma (ICP) worth Rs. 20 millions in place of AAS which is aimed to use for metal testing and other analysis.
The EPD also procured new equipment for industrial gas testing called multiple gas analysers in the year 2015 with total cost Rs 8.2 million for Multan lab. Even after a year, EPD could not utilise the equipment for stack testing. Moreover, during last fiscal year EPD also procured ICP for Multan lab with a cost of Rs 19 million which will likely remain unutilised
Sources said that institutional failure and poor administration are the main reasons behind the failure in keeping the labs updated, while EPD is also running with lack of technical staff.
When contacted, EPA Director General Javed Iqbal and director ML&I Tauqeer Qureshi were not available for comment.