ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) to shut down all steel mills violating environmental laws.

“Operations of these steel units will remain closed until their owners follow all the environmental laws of the Pak-EPA,” a senior Ministry of Climate Change official told Dawn.

According to the official, the SC has also given owners of steel mills another week to deposit Rs5 million each until they install equipment to filter their emissions.

The official explained that following the court order the mills’ points of entry and exit will be sealed by the Pak-EPA.

Report draws court’s attention to water wasted by steel mills; MCI told to investigate

In one of the hearings of cases regarding pollution by steel mills, the SC had added a financial penalty to the Rs5m security deposit for those mills that had not deposited the Rs5m on time. The court directed such mills to pay an 8pc mark-up that would go to the SC’s Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund.

The SC had also asked Human Rights Cell Director General Khalid Teepu Rana to submit a report, in collaboration with the Pak-EPA, on industrial units in the city.

The climate change official said the report was presented to the SC on Wednesday. The two monitoring departments also drew attention to the wasting of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water by steel mills every day that the government was not compensated for.

“The SC paid particular attention to this major concern that has surfaced, especially when it is taking the matter of the possible water crisis seriously,” the official said, adding that the SC has directed the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad to investigate how much water the mills are wasting.

Among the other recommendations in the report, the Pak-EPA has also asked steel mill owners to made information on emissions easier to access online.

The Pak-EPA has been drawing the SC’s attention towards increasing air pollution, and steel mills’ emissions in particular, for nearly 30 years. The court has finally taken a decision in favour of I-8, I-9 and I-10 residents, as well as those from nearby Rawalpindi, who had been breathing poisonous air for years.

According to environmentalists in the climate change ministry, Islamabad owes its high air pollution to industrial units in I-9 and I-10, such as marble factories and steel mills, mega-development projects and other factors.

Inhaling particulate pollution – mixtures of solid and liquid particles that circulate in the air – emitted by these units can increase risks of lung cancer, cardiac arrest and stroke, as well as emergency room visits for people with asthma and heart problems.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2018

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