Punjab’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has kept the renewal of certificates of a number of environmental laboratories in pendency for the past four years, letting them operate illegally, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Not only has the EPA let these laboratories operate unlawfully, it has also approved reports prepared by them for dozens of government and private projects in the province. The EPA had last renewed the certificates of seven environmental laboratories operating privately in 2009.
According to the EPA rules, private laboratories shall apply for renewals 45 days prior to the expiration of their certificates, while later a special EPA committee decides either the laboratories meet the required criteria or not.
It may be mentioned here that before the execution of any project related to construction, it is mandatory for a proponent to submit its environmental report – initial environmental examination (IEE) or environment impact assessment (EIA) – to the EPA. However the proponents have the choice to get these reports from any certified laboratory.
According to Punjab EPA’s official website, these laboratories function “to test and analyse samples of air, water, soil, effluents or wastes sent to it by any factory or any person authorised by the federal agency or a provincial agency to determine whether such samples comply with the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS); to measure noise being emitted at any place by any industrial or other activity or motor vehicle; to carry out such experiments, studies and investigations as may be required by the federal agency to monitor and enforce and where necessary to propose revision of the NEQS; to send an annual report of its activities to the federal agency, including a list of all test reports issued by it to carry out such other functions as may be entrusted to it by the federal agency from time to time”.
Nevertheless, despite the receipt of applications for renewal of certificates by a number of environmental laboratories within the due date, the EPA has been reluctant to decide whether they are eligible or not which makes the matter fishy.
An official seeking anonymity told this scribe that EPA officials were intentionally using delaying tactics in renewal of certifications while many laboratories were also working under the plea of Laboratories Regulation Act, 2000. He said that according to the clause 2 of the Rule 10 of the Act, “If an application for renewal of certification is made under regulation 13, the certificate shall continue to remain valid till the application for renewal is decided”.
However, sources said that such laboratories were bound to meet the criteria to attain the certificates and renewal as well.
According to sources, seven private laboratories seeking renewal of certification are APEX Environmental Lab, Global Environmental Lab (GEL), Hagler Baily Environmental Laboratory, Laboratories of Environmental Sciences, SGS Pakistan Pvt Limited, Solution Environmental & Analytical Laboratory and NFC-Institute of Engineering & Fertilizer Research.
Besides, there are three other laboratories waiting for renewal of certificates. These include Environmental Laboratory, SUPARCO, Pakistan, Environmental Laboratory, Institute of Chemistry, PU Lahore and National Institute for biotechnology & Genetic Engineering.
When contacted, Monitoring Lab & Implementation (ML&I) Director Tauqeer Qureshi said the EPA had done its homework regarding renewal of certificates, and would take a decision within a few days. Asked about the delay in renewal of certificates, he said the previous administration was responsible for it.