PESHAWAR: A case against the Chashma Sugar Mills, Dera Ismail Khan accused of discharging toxic effluent and thus, causing 10 deaths recently has been pending decision for one and a half years as the provincial environmental protection tribunal is non-functional.

The information was shared with a Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday during a hearing into a request of the residents of the area, where the deaths took place, against the mill.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection Agency director general Dr Mohammad Bashir told Justice Yehya Afridi and Justice Asadullah Khan Chamkani that the agency had sent separate cases against Chashma Sugar Mills and four other mills to the environmental protection tribunal around 18 months ago over the discharge of toxic wastes in watercourses but it had yet to be decided due to the non-functioning of the tribunal.

He said the tribunal was non-functional as the federal government had been delaying appointment of its chairman since March 2013.

The EPA director general said the agency’s officials visited the mills in question, collected and tested water samples before sending cases against the mills to the tribunal for decision. The bench was hearing an application filed by people of the area, where the incident took place.

They had sent the application to the Human Rights Directorate of the high court requesting the Chief Justice to take notice of the issue and order action against the responsible people.

The incident took place on May 2 when 10 people were killed due to toxic effluent discharged from Chashma Sugar Mills in Ramak village of Parowa tehsil.

Some people had fallen unconscious while crossing a watercourse and when others came to help them out they got trapped resulting in death of 10 people. The incident triggered violent protest in the area as protesters also attacked the sugar mills and ransacked it.

After brief hearing, the bench decided to refer the case to the high court’s chief justice as he had taken notice of the matter and had earlier issued ‘important orders’ in it.

The bench ordered the fixing of the case before the chief justice on June 11.

During the last hearing on May 15, the court had put on notice the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary and other officials asking them to produce a detailed report regarding the deaths.

When the bench took up for hearing the case on Thursday, additional advocate general Waqar Ahmad said in accordance with the order of the court, a report had been produced by the provincial government.

Dr Bashir, who was also in attendance, said he had produced a separate report explaining the steps taken by the EPA to check the release of toxic effluents from sugar mills and other factories.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2014