LAHORE: The laboratories of Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), situated in eight districts of the province, have stopped working due to a lack of chemicals required for them to run on, after they had only been made functional again in June this year, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Punjab EPA currently has its laboratories in eight districts – Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura and Rahim Yar Khan. These laboratories had remained nonfunctional for over five years due to reasons best known by the authorities, when the Lahore High Court intervened and ordered for the laboratories to be made functional again.
The laboratories were given a mandate to test seven basic parameters of wastewater and were provided with the required chemicals to carry out the testing.
Sources in EPA informed Pakistan Today that all of the laboratories had completed initial tests of the industrial units and submitted their reports to the headquarters. However, they complained, that it was the EPA headquarters’ responsibility to keep the supply of chemicals replenished for the testing to continue, but the authorities failed to do so in time. They added that seven out of eight of the laboratories had been out of required chemicals since August, and were lying dormant since then.
They alleged that the reluctance from the EPA authorities was due to pressure from the industrial bigwigs who were found involved in disposing of untreated wastewater.
An official of EPA revealed that there are 32 parameters to test in wastewater. However, currently, the EPA laboratories are only equipped to test seven basic parameters of wastewater, given the chemicals that are provided to them. Moreover, the available chemicals enabled the body to conduct tests in only 50 industrial units each of the eight districts in which its laboratories are established.
During the five years that the laboratories were dysfunctional, no data could be prepared for industrial effluent and other pollutants.
However, speaking with Pakistan Today, an EPA spokesman denied allegations of the body’s being dysfunctional, saying that the laboratories were operating as before and that they had sufficient chemicals to keep their operations running.
Punjab faces multiple environmental issues due to rising levels of air, land and water pollution. Thousands of small, medium and large industries operating in the province are contributing to this pollution. Media has raised the issue of the grave danger to the environment from these industries’ untreated waste several times, but the authorities have failed to address the impending threats so far.