PESHAWAR: The Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) has neglected an environmental management plan designed for the ongoing Bus Rapid Transit project and thus, causing high concentration of particulate matter (pm10) and heavy dust in the air, claim officials of the provincial Environmental Protection Agency.

With the execution of multibillion rupees Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project, not only air quality deteriorated in areas along the route but a layer of thick dust has also engulfed other localities.

The pm10, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets floating in the air, has breached the benchmark of the National Environmental Quality Standard (NEQS) due to the overlooking of guidelines envisaged in the project’s environmental management plan.

EPA officials blame situation on PDA’s failure to follow environmental plan

An independent environmental monitoring firm that investigated the impact on ambient air quality along the bus route in Peshawar has revealed in its report that the maximum concentration of PM10 in the air reached up to 193ug/m3 at Reach-I (from Chamkani from Firdos) against 150 ug/m3 permissible limit of the NEQS.

The presence of pm10 at two different locations on Reach-II (from Firdos to Hayat Avenue) was 177.1 and 184.1ug/m3. The report didn’t contain the pm10 data of Reach-III (from Hayat Avenue to Hayatabad), which is considered the worst affected part of the BRT project.

It, however, said other indicators of environment along the BRT route including noise pollution, presence of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) were almost within the permissible limits that surprised officials of the EPA.

“This is unbelievable that other indicators, particularly the level of noise, are within the range of NEQS,” said one official of the EPA, who is monitoring environment-related matters of the BRT project.

He said the firm conducted the study in the absence of EPA staff members, which was a violation of the terms of reference.

The EPA officials held the PDA, the project’s executing agency, responsible for the deteriorating quality of air, especially heavy dust that blanked the entire city.

They said the PDA was warned several times to adopt proper mitigation measures to protect ambient air quality and ambient noise.

EPA director general Israrul Haq was not available for comments.

“Despite warnings, the PDA does not comply with the environmental management plan and the EPA will approach the environmental tribunal for the implementation of the EMP,” said the official.

The BRT’s 433-page environmental impact assessment report presented to the Asian Development Bank by the PDA carries all guidelines and mitigation plan for the protection of ambient air quality, ambient noise, quality of water, traffic management plan, heritage etc.

Main guidelines of the EMP are that water will be sprinkled daily at all construction sites to suppress dust emissions and all heavy equipment and machinery shall be fitted in full compliance with the national and local regulations.

Stockpiled soil and sand shall be slightly wetted before loading, particularly in windy conditions. Fuel-efficient and well maintained haulage trucks shall be employed to minimise exhaust emissions. The vehicles transporting soil, sand and other construction materials shall be covered with tarpaulin.

For controlling noise, the plan said the excessive noise emitting equipment will not be allowed to operate and will be replaced. The blowing of horns will be prohibited on access roads to sites. Construction equipment, which generates excessive noise, shall be enclosed or fitted with effective silencing apparatus to minimise noise. The well-maintained haulage trucks will be used with speed controls.

The contractor shall take adequate measures to minimise noise nuisance in the vicinity of construction site by way of adopting available acoustic methods to remain within NEQS limits.

Officials in the EPA said the guidelines were not followed and therefore, heavy dust, increase in pm10 and noise.

They added that there were major hospitals, educational institutions and residential areas in the Reach-II and Reach-III along the route, which have been badly affected by the dust and noise pollution.

“Mechanism of sprinkling water along the project route is not an effective measure. The EPA has repeatedly asked the executing agency to carry out proper showering of the site to minimise the adverse impacts of construction activities on the people,” said an official.

He said the faulty water showering system created slush on the roads that also spread to the feeder roads too.

The official pointed out that another reason of excessive dust in the air was that debris and earth were collected only through loaders while EPA had directed PDA and contractors to use manual methods to properly dispose of debris from the site.

He said there was no fabrication or other related measures to contain or minimise dust and noise pollution. Instead of fabrication the authority had fixed only traffic ribbon and construction sites had not been covered.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2018

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