LAHORE - Unabated use of alternative fuel like tyres and coal by industries under the pretext of large scale loadshedding of gas and electricity is adding to the already high level of pollution in Lahore.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is virtually helpless as unscrupulous industrialists are adding to the pollution which is already high due to excessive emissions from moving and stationary sources with protesters making it even worse by burning used tyres to block roads.

EPA can only serve notices, carry out hearings, seal the premises at times and forward the cases to the Environmental Tribunal which takes much time to decide. The industries stop using unauthorised fuel only for the time being and resort to the same practice again when the dust settles.

As per Environmental Protection Act, all industrial units, cottage or large, are bound to obtain NOCs from the Environment Protection Department but majority of these are operating without fulfilling this legal formality, and adding to the already high levels of air and noise pollution besides spreading foul smell.

Environment Department officials believe that over 300 industrial units including a major chunk of steel-related industries are causing serious environmental hazards especially noise and air pollution in various localities of Northern Lahore. Majority of these industrial units are operating in residential localities, posing serious threat to human health.

Majority of these are using used tyres and substandard rubber products to keep their machines running that releases pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxides (SO2), nitric oxides (NO and NO2) and toxic metals, the major source of air pollution in the City. Level of SO2, NO, NO2, CO, CO2, O3 (Ozone) and PM (particulate matter) is higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, especially in congested and industrialised Northern Lahore.

As coal and used tyres are much cheaper than the electricity and gas, most of the industries especially in congested Northern Lahore continue to use alternative fuel even when there is no loadshedding of environment friendly fuel.

There are two designated industrial estates (Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate and Sundar Industrial Estate) and same number of small industrial estates (Katcha Jail Road and Sundar-Raiwind Road). There are 11 industrial clusters including the one along Hudiara Drain, Charar Drain, Kattar Bund Road, Ferozepur Road from Attari to Kasur boundary, Multan Road from Thokar to Manga Mandi, Raiwind Road, Raiwind-Manga Road, Lakhodair, Behni Road and Ring Road from Ravi Bridge to Mehmood Booti.

Out of 1213 units, 413 are steel industries, 254 textile, 113 engineering, 60 plastic, 51 warehouses, 45 pyrolysis plants, 39 paper, 38 food, 30 pharmaceutical, 23 brick kiln, 20 each rice mills, 19 stone grinding, paint and chemical, 14 electrical appliances, 11 carpets, 8 rubber, 7 ghee and oil, 6 each pesticides, foam, leather tanneries and asphalt plants, 5 synthetic leather, 4 each aluminum, flour and ice, 3 glass and 2 each fertilisers and chip board.

District Officer (DO) Environment Younas Zahid told The Nation that the department was carrying campaigns on regular basis and taking action against polluting units. EPOs have been issued to 20 rice mills for causing severe air pollution through emission of husk and dust, he said.

He added the cases against these units were pending with Environmental Tribunal. 36 out of 45 tyres pyrolysis plants have been closed, he said, and the remaining nine were operating due to stay orders. Eight brick kiln have been sealed, one imposed Rs50,000 fine and cases against 15 were pending with the Environmental Tribunal, Mr Zahid said.

The department has lodged FIRs and issued notices under PLGO-2001 to six limb roasting units for using substandard fuel.

Referring to the action against 337 steel mills for using substandard fuel and without having air pollution controlling devises, the DO said the department has so far issued personal hearing notices to 90 units and EPOs to 240.

“120 units have also been sealed under PLGO-2001 for providing immediate relief to the nearby residents. Due to the action taken by the department, 201 units have so far installed air pollution controlling devices.

“The department has issued notices under PLGO-2001 to 39 fat melting units and lodged FIRs against 28 for emission of foul smell. Seven stone crushing units were closed, three were served hearing notices under PEPA, two were served notices under PLGO-2001 and cases against three were sent to the Environmental Tribunal.”

He informed that all operational units have installed dust controlling system.