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EPA takes action against 85 illegal plants.

Byline: Sikandar Haider

Dera Ghazi Khan -- The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated action against 85 stone-crushing plants and referred cases to the Environmental Protection Tribunal, Lahore for legal action under PEP Act-1997 (Amended-2012).

Talking to The Nation, EPA Inspector Muhammad Arshad said that all the 85 stone crushing plants situated at Sakhi Sarwar Town were violating PEP Act-1997 (Amended-2012) and were illegally established without getting NOC /licence from the Mining Department, Municipal committee, Labour Department, Industries Department and EPA DG Khan etc.

These plants crush big stones into different grade small stones and grinding process is dry, therefore air pollution in the form of dust is produced from these plants during operation. No mitigation measures are adopted to control dust/air pollution i.e. neither wet scrubber, stack chimney or cover has not been installed, nor is any other engineering solution used. Health and safety precautionary measures like masks, boots, helmets, gloves and safety dress etc are not seen in the plants. Labour working at the plants, other people and environment around the plants are exposed to air/dust pollution threat that cause different diseases like silicosis, cough, respiratory tract diseases, irritation to nose, eyes, and skin to these people.

Arshad shared that most of stone crushing plants were established on the disputed land of Auqaf Department and do not have ownership of land but Mepco staff have provided illegally electric supply connections to them.

It is worth mentionable that The Nation pointed out all these irregularities on April 01, 2018 in the reference of an inquiry report conducted by Additional Deputy Commissioner Revenue (ADCR) Muhammad Iqbal Mazhar who has now promoted as deputy commissioner DG Khan.

Iqbal Mazhar as inquiry officer had remarked that criminal negligence and corruption have been committed by the government departments in the establishment of 127 illegal stone-crusher plants in Sakhi Sarwar Town and 5 plants in Tauns Sharif. All the stone crushers were working without proper permission.

He also remarked about EPA that the department remained slept till 2016. Even after 2016, there is no effective mechanism to monitor the establishment and functioning of crushing units by the department. Action against defaulting officers of EPA is recommended for their criminal negligence/misconduct.

He pointed out that Mepco had provided electric supply connection to 127 crushing units without NOCs. Similarly, Mines and Mineral Department issued only five NOCs to crushers owners without permission from EPA. Both the departments: Mines and Minerals Department and Mepco: are accountable for it, he said.

Regarding Auqaf Department, he remarked that 61 crushing units were installed on the Waqf land controlled by Auqaf Department without any land lease agreements while Auqaf Department acknowledged only three cases of land lease in 2005. Growth of the industry did not happen suddenly, he said.

The Auqaf Department has been found incapable to stop the illegal growth.

Resultantly the huge number of units has been installed upon the Wafq land, he disclosed.

'Only one FIR against some encroachers was registered in 2004 and likewise only 23 cases were registered in seven years during 2011 to 2017. The Auqaf Department has no care as to what activity has been launched and continued on its land,' he regretted.

The Stone crushing industry is a big scam in the district as many corrupt high-profile officers are directly involved in the business and silent partners of it.
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Publication:The Nation (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Feb 23, 2019
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