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Pipe factory chief, Sepa DG indicted for causing health hazard

Updated March 10, 2019

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The three-member tribunal headed by retired Justice Sadiq Hussain Bhatti formally framed the charges against the accused  in the case, which was filed in 2010. — Reuters/File
The three-member tribunal headed by retired Justice Sadiq Hussain Bhatti formally framed the charges against the accused in the case, which was filed in 2010. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: The environmental protection tribunal has indicted a pipe manufacturing factory chairman for causing health and environmental pollution and the director general of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act against it.

The accused has been charged with committing offences punishable under Sections 11 (prohibition of certain discharges or emissions), 12 (initial environmental examination and environmental impact assessment), 13 (prohibition of import of hazardous waste) and 14 (handling of hazardous substances) of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997.

Mohammad Naeem Mughal, the director general of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, has also been charged with committing an offence punishable under Section 16 (environmental protection order) of the PEPA, 1997.

The three-member tribunal headed by retired Justice Sadiq Hussain Bhatti formally framed the charges against the accused factory chairman and provincial environmental protection regulatory body’s chief in the case, which was filed in 2010.

Complainant says the factory was engaged in manufacturing asbestos pipes

The other members included Mohammad Arif Khan (legal) and Abdul Rauf Memon (technical).

The chairman read out the charges to the accused. However, they pleaded not guilty and opted to contest the trial. The tribunal summoned witnesses on the next date and adjourned the hearing.

Syed Haroon Ahmed, a resident of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, had filed a complaint against the accused alleging that he was running a factory located in a Manghopir locality.

He claimed that the factory was engaged in manufacturing asbestos pipes and sheets produced from raw material chrysotile, which was “highly dangerous and cause of cancer” as the “use of chrysotile asbestos is highly sensitive and critical”.

He further alleged that the maintenance manager of the factory, now deceased, had repeatedly made several oral complaints to the chairman about the method of manufacturing asbestos and disposal of its waste materials in a manner which was causing many serious diseases in the vicinity and among the employees.

However, the complainant said all requests and complaints made by the deceased went unheeded as a result of which manger Syed Farid Ahmed himself fell victim to mouth cancer and died.

Therefore, the complainant, who is the brother of the deceased, filed a complaint with the tribunal naming the factory chairman and Sepa DG as accused.

The tribunal was told that the junk of broken and cut pieces of pipes and sheets was lying scattered within the radius of about 15 miles, but the same were not cleaned and cleared up from the area despite repeated requests were made to the factory chairman.

The tribunal’s head noted that the complainant had submitted an application to the federal secretary, therefore, the accused Sepa DG was asked to take necessary action against the factory and forward its report to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency at Islamabad, but “he failed to do so and did not comply with such directions”.

The tribunal had also directed Sepa to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit its report, but a report of inquiry, submitted by the DG, was not satisfactory. Subsequently, the tribunal had constituted a commission, comprising technical persons, who visited the sites and reported that occupational health and safety conditions within the factory premises and dumping sites were inadequate.

The tribunal concluded that the overall analytical data verified the presence of inhalable, airborne asbestos (chrysotile) fibres in the occupational environment and dumping sites, thus both the accused committed the offences under Sections 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16, which were punishable under Section 17 of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 and within the cognisance of the tribunal.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2019