RAWALPINDI – The City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) is perhaps awaiting a Lahore or Karachi-like fire tragedy to justify action against illegal factories operating in the residential areas, setting aside all rules and regulations.

The inaction by the departments concerned of the city government against the illegal business activities is contrary to the tall claims of Punjab Government about ensuring good governance as unsafe and health-hazardous trade work is continuing in the residential areas unchecked.

Under the Punjab Local Government Ordinance, no business activities can be carried out in housing colonies and the town municipal administration officer concerned is bound to ensure health atmosphere for the citizens. According to a survey, around 130 illegal factories are

functioning in various residential areas of the city, out of which

40 are located in Khyaban-e-Sir Syed, Bagh Sardaran, Old Baddar and Bangash Colony (Khyaban-e-Iqbal). Khyaban-e-Sir Syed, where illegal businesses, including recycling of plastic for shoe making, leather refining and scrap- trade on a large scale is rampant, has turned into a volcano that may trigger anytime and cause loss of human lives, if immediate action is not taken against them.

The residents of Khyaban-e-Iqbal (Old Baddar and Bangash Colony) told APP that the illegal commercial activities in the area had made their lives difficult as they have to face unpleasant smell of chemicals used in plastic recycling and leather refining coupled with a lot of noise pollution, besides threat of fire incidents. They, in a written complaint to the Punjab chief minister and the departments concerned, have feared outbreak of asthma disease and happening of big fire incidents similar as have recently occurred in Lahore and Karachi.

Breaking out of small fires is almost a regular feature as there is no fire-fighting system and emergency exit, they added. Malik Asif Akbar, former naib nazim of the area, alleged that the residential area was being used for commercial purpose in connivance with the TMA staff as no one could dare basis to run their business without any check and fear.

He said the main gates of such factories always remained closed to hide their illegal operations. Chemicals are stored in great quantity in their premises without taking safety measures, he added.

He said there were no adequate fire-fighting arrangements in the premises of these factories, which were operating without registration with any government institution like provincial Labour Department, Civil Defence Department or Workers Welfare Board.

Thus no inspection of these factories has ever been carried out by any relevant government agency.

Javed and Haider, the residents of houses swarmed by a bakery, shoe factories and scrap godowns, have complained that the smoke emitting from the burning of scrap, making of bakery items and recycling of plastic for shoe making enters their houses from the windows due to which their children are becoming patients of asthma and sour eyes.

Talking to APP, former town member of Rawal Town Council, Shahida Shabir stressed upon the district coordination officer (DCO) to take immediate notice of the issue and clear the residential area of ‘lethal business’, which has become a hub for various kinds of commercial activities.

She said the health hazardous activities have polluted the environment and made the lives of inhabitants of their surrounding areas miserable. She also feared that lethal diseases could break out any time due to the unhealthy activities going on day and night in the area. The number of asthma patients is increasing in the colony, she added.

No official of the town municipal administration was available for comments on the issue. However, another official, on condition of anonymity, admitted mushroom growth of illegal factories in housing societies. He said the DCO had directed the departments concerned to shift the factories from residential areas to the industrial zone and ensure appropriate safety measures and installation of fire-fighting gadgets at all the industrial units.

He rejected the impression of taking ‘monthly’ by any of the TMA staffers and said that all-out efforts were being made to end the commercial activities from the residential areas.