LAHORE: In wake of the recent spell of toxic smog in the province, the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sealed scores of industrial units to show its efficiency while misusing its legal authority, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Since the smog has choked Lahore and other parts of the country, all the concerned authorities have started a race to express their efficiency.
According to official data, the EPA has thus far sealed 265 industrial units on account of causing the smog. Among these units, 161 were only located in Lahore while it has lodged cases against 97 owners. Moreover, at least 1,341 vehicles had been issued tickets and were fines of more than RS 7 million were imposed.
According to EPA officials, such units were sealed under the section 16 of Punjab Environmental protection Act-1997, claiming this section provides authority to seal any unit on account of violation.
However, the section 11 of the Act bound every entity to discharge its air and wastewater emissions within Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS). And, if an entity fails to comply with Section 11 then EPA issues Environment Protection Order (EPO).
Sources claim that EPA the industrial units without fulfilling the legal requirements. They state that EPA had no authority to seal any industry on account of non-compliance of section 16. “If EPA finds someone violating the law, then its prime duty is to issue EPO, mentioning the directions to follow. After receiving the EPO, EPA has to put the case before Punjab Environmental Tribunal for trial to seek sealing of unit, conviction, fine or any other penalty”.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Section 17 (1)(5) & 21(2) of the Environment Act clearly defines the fining and sealing authority to be Punjab Environmental Tribunal. It has also has been observed that EPA in past, failed in putting a suitable penalty against violator from environmental tribunal on account of lack of evidence.
The owners of the sealed industrial units have also complained that they were barred from working without prior intimation or issuing any EPO. They were of the view that the illegal seizing of operations had made thousands of workers unemployed.
An official from EPD seeking anonymity told this scribe that they did not have any other solution to take mitigation measures following the smog and thus resorted to such tactics. He also admitted that industrial unites were sealed without any scientific evidence.
EPA spokesman, however, justified the EPA’s move of sealing industrial units, claiming all the said units were violating the environmental laws and were sealed according to the law.