The Sialkot tanneries’ owners are irked over the issuance of show-cause notices by Environment Protection Agency Sialkot and heavy fines imposed on them by the Environment Tribunal Court.

The Pakistan Gloves Manufacturers and Exporters Association chairman and the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry president urged the Punjab government to take a lenient view of the issues so as to provide relief for the perturbed tanners and extend the deadline for shifting their tanneries to the under-construction Sialkot Tanneries Zone.

Association Chairman Shahzada Ibne Iqbal Syed said that a period of next five years was required for the completion of the project, he said. He urged the government to allow the tanneries to stay in Sialkot till the completion of the project and withdraw all the cases against the Sialkot tanners.

Talking to newsmen, he expressed grave concern over the nasty situation. He alleged that Environment Protection Agency was continuously harassing the tanners for creating environmental pollution and for not adopting the preventive measure to save the environment prom tanneries pollution.

He said that the Agency had issued show-cause notices to all the 284 small, medium- and big-sized tanneries. He added that the cases had been sent to the Agency’s Lahore tribunal for further trial. Shahzada said that the tribunal imposed heavy fines to the Sialkot tanners. To a question, he said that the tanners were fully conscious about the hazards of environmental pollution. He said most the tanneries were very small-sized, due to which they were unable to bear the high expenses of establishing chemical water treatment plant. He said that each water treatment plant costs Rs10 million.

The PGMEA chairman revealed that there were around 284 tanneries in 10 clusters in and around Sialkot city. In the absence of a proper effluent collection system and treatment facilities, the effluent of these tanneries were being discharged to nullahs Aik, Bhed and Palkhu. As there was no scientific land fill available for tannery waste, heaps of garbage could be seen everywhere, he lamented.

He narrated that the government and the tanners, in a bid to improve current situation with the help of donor agencies, had established a Chrome Recovery Plant on pilot basis. Also Leather Product Development Institute and Cleaner Production Centre were also established at Sialkot including a number of components such as analytic lab as well, he said.

He added that the Agency was threatening the tanners to shift their tanneries to the under construction Sialkot Tanneries Zone, adopt the preventive measure to cope with their tanneries’ pollution or get ready to face the music. “It has been continuously sending us show-cause notices and the Environment Protection Agency Tribunal Court Lahore was imposing heavy fines in such cases,” he said. “Most of the Sialkot tanners were on bail before arrest in the cases against them and under trial in Environment Protection Agency Tribunal Court Lahore.”

He said that almost all the tanners in Sialkot had already purchased their plots in the Zone. He added that the tanners were also considering an option to lock up their tanneries to lodge a strong protest against the alleged highhandedness of the local officials of Environment Protection Agency.

Talking to the newsmen, Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Dr Sarfraz Bashir also expressed grave concern over the situation and urged Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to save the Sialkot tanners from the clutches of the Environment Protection Agency and announce some relaxation and leniency to the Sialkot tanners.

He said that thousands of workers would be terminated if the Sialkot tanneries were closed as a protest against the show-cause notice and cases against them. He said that the tanners were much perturbed mentally after the repeated issuance of the show-cause notices and cases. Also SCCI president urged the government to allow these tanners to work at their present tanneries till their relocation.