LAHORE: Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been unable to take action against the violators of environmental laws in the province, Pakistan Today has learnt.
EPA received at least 2,200 complaints in 2016 against the violators of no objection certificates (NOC) filed by the field officers and field inspectors who submitted these as Site Inspection Reports (SIR) after conducting the surveys of their respective areas.
The source claimed that there have been thousands of complaints with EPA since 2011 which are still pending for decision.
According to environmental laws, after receiving any complaint department is bound to serve notice to the violators for a personal hearing. These hearing notices are served under the section 16 (1) of EPA rules. At the time of hearing the violator is given chance to prove himself innocent. If he fails to defend allegations against him, EPA has right to issue Environmental Protection Order (EPO) against him under section 16 (2).
After issuing EPO, if someone again found violating the EPA rules, then the case is sent to Environmental Tribunal (ET) which fixes the penalty as per rules.
According to the source, during 2016 EPA could issue less than 200 EPOs against violators which were sent to its legal section for the further proceeding in the environmental tribunal. “More than 2,000 complaints are still pending for a decision and the EPA has failed to issue even hearing notices to many” the source added.
The source also revealed that in the past year the environmental tribunal sent back many EPOs to the EPA as they had no scientific evidence. “Most of the cases referred to ET were without laboratory reports as EPA labs were dysfunctional for more than one year at the time of SIR” and added that EPA labs are still not functional.
Planning and Coordination Director Waseem Ahsan Cheema claimed that the EPA had issued 955 hearing notices last year. While talking to Pakistan Today he said that the EPA issued 188 EPOs to those found violating environmental laws during last year. However, he did not inform either such EPOs has been issued against those complaints received during 2016 or before that period.
Giving the reason for the delay in action against so many complaints he said that the EPA has to take a decision after reviewing all the matters so that nobody could be penalised wrongfully.
An official seeking anonymity told that the reason behind the delay in action was due to the negligence of EPA ex-director general Javed Iqbal. He said that Javed Iqbal was busy in departmental politics so he could not pay attention to the necessary matters.
EPA Spokesman Naseem-ur-Rehman Shah while talking to Pakistan Today confirmed that there had been a large number of unattended complaints last year. He said that EPD Secretary Saif Anjum who is also acting DG EPA has ordered to make a decision on pending complaints.