LAHORE - The government is not serious to take up environment friendly measures particularly in industrial estates, as Strategic Trade Policy Frame Work 2012-15 is silent regarding setting up of treatment plants in individual tanneries though the STPF 2009-12 had allowed matching grants to establish treatment plants for single tanning units, it was learnt.

“Since 80 per cent exports are from individual tanneries out of cluster and not covered by the Combined Treatment Plants in the country as such every large and medium sized tannery needs ETP to comply NEQs set under Environmental Protection Act of Pakistan 1997 and EPA Punjab 2012.”

Industry sources said that India spent Rs 4 billion, Rs9.2 billion, and Rss12.51 billion under ILDP 10th, 11th, and 12th Plan respectively and Pakistan may follow same policy.”

They said that government deducts 0.5 Export Development Surcharge on each export consignment, hence a Matching Grant can be allowed from this amount to develop exports of leather and leather articles i.e. Garments, Gloves, Footwear, and Leather Goods. Without Environmental Compliance the exports of leather can not grow. It is pre-condition of all leading brands like IKEA, Wall- Mart , Gucci, Bali, Luis Vetoun, Gap, Levis, and others to have treatment plants and to meet NEQs, they added.

They said that all pollution plants in the country are based on biological treatment which needs continuous aeration to grow biomass (micro organism) so that toxic substances are eaten up and water at the end of the pipe becomes clean and meets NEQs. For aeration industry needs uninterrupted electricity which is not possible in next 3-4 years. The realistic requirement would be to relax NEQs by 30% to 40% for next 3 years till energy crisis is solved.

Countries like Czech Republic and Costa Rica with higher Per-Capita Income have COD Level 300 mg/l and 600 mg/l and China, India, and Nepal have 300 mg/l, 250mg/l, and 250 mg/l respectively.

But in Pakistan as per laid down NEQs COD Level is 150 mg per liter which is fetal for export industry. There is a dire need to increase COD Level to at-least 300 mg per liter. Similarly, other parameters need to be made realistic.

There is no use of Treatment Plants if there are no Authorized Land Fill Sites near Industrial Areas to dump Industrial Solid Waste coming out of Treatment Plants. In fact ETPs without Land Fill Sites is meaningless and throughout the World Land Fill Sites are provided by the government. We request for immediate decision to provide Land Fill Sites for Solid Waste of Industry.

The Government of Punjab may not allow any Private Housing Schemes near established Industrial Areas. Secondly, Housing Colonies and Residential Houses may be kept away from Industrial Waste Water drains for the sake of health and safety. In Industrial Areas only workers colonies may be allowed on separate land.

Agha Saiddain, chairman of the Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA), said that the association has taken up the environmental issues faced by the tanneries in Punjab with the provincial Environment Protection Minister Col Shuja Khanzada (Retd) in a recent meeting.

“We assured full support to the government to keep the country clean, especially Punjab - the biggest province as far as population is concerned,” he said.

He asked the minister to recommend federal government to continue Matching Grant for Setting-Up of ETP in Individual Tanners of large and medium size.

Initially industry may be asked to filter all solid waste and sludge before effluent goes to the drain. By this way we will achieve 70% to 75% NEQs and you can see a different Punjab in next 3 years.

After three years the NEQs may be tightened gradually to take out all pollution loads from the Industrial Waste Water.

He said that the Environmental Protection Department may appoint technical people to guide SMEs who can not afford paid professional Consultants. For next 3 years EPD may function like an advisor rather inspectors. Secondly, we would strongly request that incase of any complaint against any Leather Unit the PTA may be taken on board and EPD may first write to PTA for any such violation.