Rawalpindi-Contrary to policy of the Punjab government, illegal business activities are being carried out in residential areas in connivance with the concerned departments setting aside all rules and regulations.

Under the Punjab Local Government Ordinance, no business activities could be carried out in housing colonies and the Municipal Corporation (MC) Officer concerned is bound to ensure conducive atmosphere for citizens.

According to a survey, more than 100 illegal factories are functioning in various residential colonies of the city, out of which, 40 are located alone in Khyaban-e-Sir Syed, Bagh Sardaran, old Baddar Colony and Bangash Colony. The Khyaban-e-Sir Syed (Dhoke Najju), where illegal businesses including recycling of plastic for shoe making, leather refining and scrap-trade on a large scale are rampant, has turned into a volcano that may trigger anytime and cause irrecoverable human loss, if immediate action is not taken against them.

Residents of the area 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 COVID-19, asthma disease and happening of big fire incidents similar as to what have recently occurred in Lahore and Karachi. “Breaking out of small fires is almost a regular feature as there is no firefighting system and emergency exit,” they added.

Sheikh Yasir, former Councillor of the area, alleged that residential area was being used for commercial purpose in connivance with the RMC staff as no one could dare to start their business without the authority’s backing. He was of the view that ‘monthly’ was given on regular basis to run illegal business in housing colonies to shut their mouth, close their eyes and for turning a deaf ear to the issue.

He said the main gates of such factories always remain closed to hide their illegal operations, adding that “Chemicals are stored in great quantity in their premises without taking safety measures.”

He said there were no adequate firefighting 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.

Azeem Butt and Shabbir Mir, residents of the house in whose rear side a bakery, shoe factories and scrap godowns are situated, complained that the smoke emitting from the burning of scrap material, bakery items and recycling of plastic for shoe making enters their houses 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 Deputy Commissioner (DC) to take immediate notice of the issue and clear the residential area of ‘lethal activities, which has become a hub for various kind of commercial activities. 

She said the hazardous activities have polluted the environment and made the lives of its inhabitants miserable.

She feared break out of fatal diseases due to unhealthy activities, which are going on day and night there, adding “the number of asthma patients is increasing in the colony.”

When contacted, no official of  Municipal Administration was available to comment on the issue, however, an official on condition of not being named admitted mushroom growth of illegal factories in housing colonies.

He said the DC has directed the departments concerned to shift the factories from residential areas to Industrial Zone and ensure appropriate safety measures and installation of firefighting gadgets at all the industrial units.

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