KARACHI: The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has been served with a legal notice asking the department to take action against the import and handling operations of pet coke at the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) as this activity constitutes a serious violation of the environmental law as well as a 2018 order of the Supreme Court, it emerged on Monday.

Sources said that the notice had been served by the Citizens for Environment, a non-profit organisation, after a ship, Olympus, arrived with 48,680 tonnes of petroleum coke at the KPT on Nov 1.

A product of oil refining, petroleum coke, also called pet coke, is a solid carbon material that resembles coal.

According to experts, significant quantities of fugitive dust from pet coke storage and handling operations present a serious health risk, especially the particles that are 10 micrometres in diameter or smaller (referred to as PM10) because they can pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs.

Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

The Oct 31 legal notice reads: “It is mandatory under Section 12 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014, to acquire prior approval for import of hazardous waste into the Sindh province or its coastal, territorial or historical waters.

“It is prohibited under Section 13 of the 2014 environmental act to import, generate, collect, consign, transport, treat, dispose of, store, handle or otherwise use or deal with any hazardous substance except under a licence issued by you.

“The importer is required under Rule 20 of the environmental act to provide details of the port of entry into Sindh, particulars of transport from exporting country to Pakistan, quantity of hazardous substance being imported, complete information pertaining to safety precautions adopted, purpose of use and approval from the Climate Change Division.”

The notice also refers to the June 2018 order of the SC under which offloading of coal was banned at the KPT and shifted to Port Qasim.

“The issue of pollution being created at KPT and the coal yard, which ultimately affected the entire city, would stand resolved if the ships carrying coal are directly discharged at Port Qasim.

“Thus in the circumstances we direct that all ships carrying imported coal to Pakistan shall not be unloaded at the KPT rather at Port Qasim,” reads the court order.

The judgement had come on petitions filed by residents of Shireen Jinnah Colony, located adjacent to the KPT, and some citizens who had raised concerns over the environmental and health impacts of unsafe handling operations, transportation and storage at the KPT.

The NGO urged Sepa to pass Environmental Protection Order against the offence and take action against it under Section 21 of the act.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019