LAHORE - Hundreds of industrial units are disposing their untreated wastewater into water channels in different districts of Punjab in violation of the Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS).

It was revealed after the EPA conducted laboratory tests of wastewater samples from June 2017 to June 2018. However, the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could not take sufficient action against those involved due to unknown reasons.

Sources in EPA said that in Punjab scores of environmental issues such as poor air quality, soil and water pollution are intensifying with every passing day. The Punjab EPA, which is the prime regulatory body to monitor and control the environmental degradation in the province, has been criticized for not performing its duties up to the mark.

This is pertinent to mention here that Punjab EPA’s laboratories remained dysfunctional for over five years and during this span of time it could not monitor industrial effluents properly. These laboratories have been established in eight districts of the province; Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura and Rahim Yar Khan. However, after the court directions, EPA made functional its laboratories in May 2017 while it started preparing test reports from June 2017.

Reliable sources in EPA said these laboratories’ staff was assigned to test industrial wastewater in their respective districts. These laboratories were given task to test seven parametres of wastewater out of 32 as mentioned in PEQS, they said. “Department’s officials concerned collected and tested wastewater samples and prepared reports of over hundred industrial units in the province where most of them were found in violation of section 11 of Punjab Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) 1997. They revealed that EPA high officials started keeping such cases in pendency on the basis of section 16 of PEPA instead of filing them direct to Environmental Tribunal (ET) under section 11,” they said.

An official in EPA while seeking anonymity and admitting negligence on the part of department, said, “Rule 12 of Sampling Regulations allows the EPA officials to file complaints against polluters before Punjab ET. But instead of complying with the Regulations, EPA kept the non-compliance reports into pendency for the reasons best known to the high officials.” He added that if such cases are delayed on the basis of section 16, it makes clear department’s intentions to facilitate the violators.

He continued that millions of rupees were spent on testing and monitoring the industrial units. “Resources equivalent to fifty thousand rupees are to be spent on testing and monitoring of single units but EPA put the reports into pendency under Section 16 of the Act, 1997 which has caused losses to public exchequer in billions and dropped the efficiency of EPA.”

During June 2017 to June 2018, most of the industrial units including multinational groups were found disposing of their water untreated.

As per PEQS limits, the maximum limit for the basic seven parametres of wastewater is set as; total suspended solids (TSS) 200 milligram per liter (mg/L), total dissolved solids (TDS) 3500 mg/L, potential of hydrogen (pH) is 6-9, Chlorine (Cl-) 1000, biological oxygen demands (BOD) 80, chemical oxygen demands (COD) 150 while temperature must not be exceeded than 3 degree Celsius. However, in laboratories report not a single industrial unit could fulfill the requirements of PEQS.

Environmental Lawyer Sardar Aasif Sial while talking to this scribe said that if laboratory section prepared any report following the Rule 12 of Sampling Regulations then there must not any reason to avoid in filing cases before ET. “The rampant episode of pollution needs efficacious and rapid action against polluters. This is only possible if EPA directly files cases before tribunal under Regulations of Sampling Rules,” he continued.

An EPA officer, however, claimed that all violators were being prosecuted as per due process of law.