Sunday, November 14, 2010

forex trading ARDESHIR COWASJEE ARTICLES : Adrift in a sea of pollution

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhry, sitting this past week on the Karachi bench of the Supreme Court (SC), with brother Justices Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed and Ghulam Rabbani, whilst hearing a human rights case of 2006 concerning the death of one child and burns inflicted on 19 others in the SITE area and injuries to 15 children in Orangi, directed the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to remove all toxic waste from industrial areas within seven days.
The agency has its work cut out. Aside from notified industrial zones such as SITE, Korangi, F.B. Area, Port Qasim, EPZ, Landhi, North Karachi, etc, the city is fast developing into one large conglomeration of unlawful cottage industries within the residential and commercial areas of Saddar, Liaquatabad, Gulberg, Baldia, Shah Faisal, North Nazimabad, Orangi and Korangi.
Hearing a further three human rights cases pending since 1992 which dealt with poisonous industrial/municipal effluents being discharged into the sea, the bench directed the attorney-general of Pakistan to monitor and report regularly on the measures being taken by the Karachi Port Trust, Karachi Water & Sewerage Board, SITE, Defence Housing Authority, the cantonment boards, the city government and industrial estates to contain marine pollution.
The CJP stated: “There should be self-accountability by the business community. If a factory owner cannot fulfill the required laws, he should close down the business instead of making profit at the cost of lives….” This is easier said than done. The greed that consumes our upper-income citizens will not allow a reduction in any ‘development’ to benefit the environment even though its ruin adversely affects all of us.
A World Bank’s assessment of 2006 revealed that the loss caused to Pakistan by ‘environmental degradation’ was equivalent to six per cent of GDP — while our ‘economic progress’ was also six per cent of GDP. What is the ratio now?
Karachi’s pollution is an old nightmare burgeoning by the day. Apart from endangering ordinary citizens, it affects the armed forces located in the metropolis. In June 2007, Senator Nisar Memon, chairman of the Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, presented a report on Pollution in Karachi Harbour and areas around PAF Bases at Karachi.
The navy had complained that a 30 per cent reduction in the life of their warships was anticipated because of accelerated corrosion which would cost some $1bn over their lifetime. The cause is the 400 million gallons per day of untreated sewage that pours into the sea from rivers and nallahs, rendering the harbour a basin of chemicals.
The air force had lost 12 fighter planes (each costing between $10m to $25m) over the foregoing year and a half due to accidents with birds in the take-off and landing flight paths. The proliferation of scavenging birds around Faisal and Masroor bases is generated by heaps of uncollected garbage and industrial waste.
The committee found that environment protection laws were sufficient, but enforcement was practically non-existent, especially by Sepa. The defining law for the control of industrial and municipal waste and liquid/gaseous effluents is the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, and the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) 2000. These define exactly what concentration of pollutants can be contained in discharges from a facility into sewage treatment or inland waters. They are, naturally, given the standards of the ‘leaders’ and their minions, observed mainly in the breach. Sepa is deliberately kept understaffed and is subjected to massive political pressures. Last month, a news item in this newspaper revealed that over 100 environmental protection orders issued to offending industries by Sepa had to be withdrawn owing to influence exerted on the government.
Karachi has three sewage-treatment plants (Gutter Baghicha, Mauripur and Mehmoodabad) which process less than 25 per cent of the city’s effluent, allowing over 400 million gallons per day of raw and poisonous sewage to pour into coastal waters. It is criminal that the city government has allotted amenity land for housing to its political supporters within two of these sewage plants — Gutter Baghicha and Mehmoodabad — thus restricting the much-needed expansion of waste-treatment facilities.
One requirement of NEQS 2000 that Sepa has purposefully ignored in the majority of its EIA determinations is that the discharge of effluent must not be more than three degrees centigrade above sea temperature, nor can discharge be at shore or within 10 miles of mangroves and important estuaries.
Many citizens of Karachi who are concerned and alarmed by the environmental degradation that surrounds them await the next session of the Karachi bench of the SC. It is amazing that it is to the judiciary that we can only look with the hope that they will pass orders that at least provoke the government and the administration to do the jobs they are paid to do.
On the grabbing of amenity land side, the sand in the hourglass is running out for Makro-Habib at Webb Ground in Lines Area. The SC has ordered that by March 17, 2010 the mega-store was “to remove its structures and installations from the playground, restore it to the same condition as existed on the date of the sub-lease and hand over its vacant possession to the CDGK”. However, as of today, there has been no action.
One factor that has recently come to light concerning this issue is that the defence ministry, vide SRO 272(1)/83 dated 17-3-1983, had been “pleased … to exclude from [Karachi] Cantonment the areas comprising Jutland Lines, Abyssinia Lines and Tunisia Lines”, so that it could be developed by the KDA. Webb Ground lies in Tunisia Lines, and the existence of the 1983 Federal Gazette notification was not revealed to the court by the ministry’s counsel.

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