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The mobile station for air quality monitoring gathers dust at the Sepa office. ─ White Star
The mobile station for air quality monitoring gathers dust at the Sepa office. ─ White Star

KARACHI: Despite growing global concerns over air pollution and the fact that Karachi has been declared the fifth most polluted city in a World Health Organisation (WHO) report released early this year, the government seems to be in no hurry to re-start environmental monitoring stations that have remained idle for the past five years due to lack of funds, it emerged on Sunday.

According to sources, the city has three dysfunctional environmental monitoring stations (EMS); two of them installed at the head office of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) in Korangi and the office of deputy commissioner of district central in North Nazimabad respectively, while the third is a mobile environmental monitoring station.

These systems, they said, were provided to Sepa in Sindh and to other provincial government departments as part of the Rs1.23bn project launched by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with the Japan International Corporation Agency (Jica) in 2007.

JICA’s share in the project was 79pc (973m) in the project. The federal government bore 21pc (260m) while the Sindh government was to provide technical assistance and environmental monitoring equipment.

The project’s objective, sources said, was to measure air pollutant levels especially in the city’s industrial zones.

“The stations did carry out air monitoring for some years before they fell into disuse following devolution under which the project was transferred from the federal government to the provincial government without any financial assistance,” said additional director general of Sepa S.M. Yahya, adding that the stations operated till 2012.

The government, he said, now had approved a project to restart their operation. “The budget of the Rs140m project titled ‘Strengthening of environmental management system’ has been approved and the Pakistani representative of the Japanese company earlier involved in the project has been asked to carry out repairs and maintenance of the monitoring systems,” he said.

To a question about the amount required to run these stations and whether Sepa has the technical capacity to run these systems, he said Rs5m was required annually to run them.

“Some staff posted at other stations will be called in, besides a few new appointments would be made in the coming months. Hopefully, air quality monitoring will resume within three months,” he said.

It is noteworthy that Sindh environment minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro while responding to some environmental concerns raised by lawmakers in the assembly, had told the house in Feb earlier this year that the EMS would be operational in a few months.

Fifth most polluted city

According to a 2016 WHO report, Karachi is the fifth most polluted city in the world followed by Peshawar and Rawalpindi.

Thirteen of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world, the report says, are in India. The report ranked 1,600 cities in 91 countries for the quality of their air, which is measured for concentrations of particulate matters (PM 10 and PM 2.5), two major harmful pollutants that can cause serious diseases.

The study, sources said, was not the first report showing the alarming levels of air pollution posing a direct threat to human health. In 2013, an Aga Khan University and Hospital (AKUH) study had linked a striking rise in emergency room visits and hospitalisations for cardiovascular diseases to higher levels of air pollutants in Karachi.

An independent environmental consultant Saquib Ejaz Hussain observed: “Karachi is one of the few cities in the world that has no air quality index, a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is to become. The air quality monitoring exercises of Sepa were erratic and the agency never analysed or documented its data to predict future pollution levels.”

The government job wasn’t just to monitor air pollutant levels but also to take measures to control them, he said.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2016

Comments (8) Closed

Likeitornot Jul 11, 2016 09:18am

Karachi is the 5th most polluted city in the world. The most polluted areas are at/near SITE,Shershah,Pak Colony(there is marble dust also due to marble grinding industry in vicinity)Korangi a Industrial area,Karachi Port including Kemari,than traffic pollution on MA Jinnah Road to Keamari,Shahra-e-Faisal road from Metropole to PSM.The Sindh Govt or Federal Govt simply does not have capability or will, to serve or save Karachiites from any disaster,already there are more asthma patients in Karachi than any other place of Pakistan.The provincial Sindh Govt & Federal Govt are already in loggerheads on corruption issues and vested interest.The news about pollution and environmental control gadgets will only remain news for 2 or 3 days and then forgotton,lost like needle in hay.

Mohsin Jul 11, 2016 09:29am

Does it really matter. We already know the quality of our karachi air

Shak Jul 11, 2016 09:32am

The government job wasn’t just to monitor air pollutant levels but also to pollute air and make it in breathable so far they have great success

Dejected Karachiite Jul 11, 2016 02:50pm

Nobody cares about Karachi. All they are interested in is how to milk as much money as possible from this city. The federal and provincial government are partners in crime.

Pakistan Jul 11, 2016 03:11pm

Nobody was prepared to explain to CM Sindh what air quality monitering system does. It would be torturous especially when gutters are still uncovered!

Houlbelat Jul 11, 2016 05:24pm

The corrupt monitoring system that never listens to the truth of nature and always paint dirty pictures of Karachi, must remain in oblivion for ever.

Comments Jul 11, 2016 06:21pm

No sense of responsibility leads to mismanagement. Since no one ever gets punished or demoted because of incompetency, this vicious cycle of negligence continues. Officials keep drawing big salary and perks for not doing their job they are paid for. Consequently, tax payers continue to suffer. (What else is new?).

Comments Jul 11, 2016 06:29pm

@Likeitornot Very good illustration on provincial government performance. But you can be sure that people will elect same politicians again and continue complaining as usual. Illiteracy has reached its logical end in voting for wrong people and clever hypocrites laughing all the way to bank as usual.