Unloading of potentially harmful cargoes without SOPs under way at port, Sepa tells SHC

Published February 12, 2021
he Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) on Thursday informed the Sindh High Court that soybean and pet coke consignments were being unloaded at Karachi Port Trust without SOPs. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File
he Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) on Thursday informed the Sindh High Court that soybean and pet coke consignments were being unloaded at Karachi Port Trust without SOPs. — Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) on Thursday informed the Sindh High Court that soybean and pet coke consignments were being unloaded at Karachi Port Trust without standard operating procedures (SOPs) and in the absence of any monitoring system for ambient air on the KPT premises and adjacent areas.

In its report, filed on a set of petitions regarding the deaths of people due to suspected leakage of gas in Keamari in February last year, Sepa further submitted that its monitoring and lab analysis indicated that the parameters of particulate matter (MP2.5 & MP10) were exceeding the limits of ambient air quality standards regarding handling of soybean and pet coke.

The two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar expressed resentment with the police for filing the A-class report (accused persons are unknown or untraceable) in the trial court and not giving any consideration to the statements of affected people. The bench directed the SSP concerned to take action in the light of report submitted by Sepa.

The Department of Plant Protection (DPP) also placed its report before the bench and said that its team did not find any smell or sign of any poisonous gas during inspection of KPT terminal and sampling.

When the bench took up a set of petitions for hearing on Thursday, the director general of Sepa filed the report which said that its team had inspected the ship loaded with soybean imported from the US and observed high intensity of dust emission during the process of unloading.

‘Main threat to urban population of the vicinity is from soybean dust and pet-coke piles’

The team also noted that several containers loaded with hazardous chemicals were also stored on the premises of KPT for last three to four years unclaimed by the consignees as informed by the management of KPT while surrounding area of oil terminal were found untidy and highly polluted with waste generated from oil tankers, it added.

The report further maintained that the main threat to the urban population of the vicinity was from soybean dust and pet-coke piles and also fugitive dust emission in the form of particulate matter.

“Considering the situation and on the observation of the team of Sepa and also lab results of Environmental Certified Laboratory namely Sustainable Environmental Services (SES) Laboratory which indicates the parameters of Carbon mono Oxide, Particulate Matters (PM 2.5) were exceeding the prescribed parameters of Sindh Environmental Quality Standards (SEQS)”, it added.

Sepa in its report also recommended that marine pollution board of KPT should play its proactive role to prevent and control ambient air quality of ports premises and surrounding areas and all oil companies and terminals must prepare environmental management plan/environmental audit report for their operational activities and submit it for review and approval of Sepa.

KPT must handle soybean and pet coke only under strict international standards and regulations at specified places, it further suggested and requested the bench to call final reports from commissioner of Karachi and HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi, to reach a conclusion.

The DPP in its report said that its four-member team had inspected the ship carrying soybean in order to detect insect pest and disease symptoms injurious to domestic agriculture while sampling for aflatoxin level detection was also made.

Since no insect pest was detected on arrival and the aflatoxin level as per HEJ lab of University of Karachi was in admissible limit, the department issued plant protection release order, it added.

The petitioners approached the SHC seeking directives for the authorities concerned to investigate the incident, take remedial measures and give compensation to the families of those that had died in the incident.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2021

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