In D.I. Khan, ten people lost their lives after falling into a chemical drain yesterday. This chemical drain carried waste from the Chashma Sugar Mills and ends in the Indus River. Two things must be considered when addressing this incident: safety and accountability, for human life and the environment.

Had events not taken this deadly turn, the Chashma Sugar Mills would still be releasing its deadly, untreated waste into our water systems unnoticed. In turn these sugar mills are owned by the influential political lobby that gets ministries and many political perks. Is this why these influential conglomerates manage to flout the environmental laws without much consequence?

Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s Chief Minister Pervaiz Khatak, has taken notice of this incident, but is this enough? Who will ensure that the environmental laws (not currently on the agenda of any political party) are implemented? Who is accountable- the Environmental Protection Department, Environmental Protection Agency or the KPK government, since the environment has been devolved to the provinces? It is unlikely that in a country like Pakistan, the District Officer Environment will be able to work efficiently. Though of course, at the grass root level, it is his responsibility to ensure that the industries treat their waste before releasing it and the National Environmental Quality Standards of air and water are maintained. Should the CM KPK, who is empowered enough to counter this super-wealthy lobby, not be held accountable for implementing these environmental laws?

Above all, should governments like the PMLN’s, which emphasize on the free markets and growth-oriented models, not focus more on the environmental laws and their enforcement? This event in D.I.Khan was truly heinous; had it happened in any developed country, nationwide protests would have broken out. But of course, our politicians have important matters to deal with- human life and the environment can wait.