KARACHI: An environmental tribunal on Tuesday recorded testimony of a witness in a case pertaining to issuance of approvals by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency to private companies for collection and disposal of hazardous and infectious waste allegedly without conducting environmental impact assessment.

The three-member tribunal headed by its chairman retired Justice Sadiq Hussain Bhatti was hearing a complaint filed by a non-governmental organisation, Society for Environmental and Mangrove Protection Welfare Association, against issuance of approvals to private contractors by Sepa allegedly without fulfilling legal requirements.

The complainant cited the provincial chief secretary, secretary of environment, climate change and coastal development department, the director-general and director of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, and private company Unique Plastic Disposal as respondents.

On Tuesday, witness Mohammad Munir appeared before the tribunal and deposed that he was an eyewitness to disposal of hazardous and infectious waste in different parts of the metropolis and into the sea.

‘Hazardous waste is being dumped at the National Highway near Port Qasim Industrial Area and Lyari Expressway and into the sea during night hours’

He further deposed that the private contractor companies were involved in disposing of the hazardous and infectious waste at the National Highway in vicinity of the Port Qasim Industrial Area and Lyari Expressway and into the open sea during night hours, adding that they were also burning such waste without adopting scientific methods, causing environmental issues and risks to human health.

The witness said several pictures of such activity were taken while video footage was also made of the same under his supervision since he worked for the complainant organisation.

After recording his statement, the judge adjourned the matter till Nov 17 for issuance of notice to the respondents.

On the last date, the association’s president, Dr Kanwal Nazim, had recorded her statement before the tribunal, stating that Sepa was issuing approvals without conducting EIA/IEE without following provisions of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014 and its rules and regulations.

The complainant had said that hazardous and infectious waste was being collected through trucks without following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) or any scientific approach, therefore, there were chances of contamination of all natural resources.

The different organizations/companies are directly dumping the said hazardous and infectious waste into the Jam Chakro and Gond Pass, the complainant had alleged and added that it was also observed that the hazardous waste had been burnt later on, which emitted smoke, soot, dangerous gases and the same were creating air pollution in the environment.

The complainant had further testified that the staff of the association had taken some photographs and also made video recording of such hazardous and infectious waste, which had been dumped at the National Highway in the vicinity of the Port Qasim Industrial Area and Lyari Expressway.

The complainant had produced photos as well as video footage of the same in the court.

The complainant had stated that Sepa had issued approvals to different organisations, entities and persons for collection, transportation, storage, handling and disposal of the hazardous and non-hazardous waste without conducting the environmental impact assessment (EIA), which is mandatory requirement of the law.

She produced copies of such approvals allegedly issued without fulfilling formalities.

He said that in some approvals, Sepa had mentioned five conditions and in some approvals 20 conditions were mentioned.

The complainant had testified that one of the waste handling organisations, namely Unique Plastic Disposal, was being run at Mehran Town in Korangi and the incineration plant was not functional, but Sepa had issued approval for collection, transportation, handling and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste without conducting EIA.

She further deposed that on March 4 the association issued a letter to the Sepa DG with a request to provide information regarding approval of the contractors/companies to collect, handle, transport, store and incinerate the non-hazardous and hazardous waste, but no response had been given so far.

Thereafter, on June 10 the complainant served a notice on the DG Sepa regarding contravention of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014 under Section 26(3)(b) of the act. The DG was requested to take action against the responsible organisations/companies for committing such violations of the environmental laws.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2020

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