In its action against brick kilns, vehicles and industrial units involved in emitting toxic smoke that causes smog, the Punjab government has sealed at least 300 units, confiscated several vehicles, while imposing over Rs10 million in fines on them during the last 20 days.
Authorities also lodged first information reports (FIRs) against over 670 persons, arresting at least 94 in different districts.
This is the sixth year since 2016 that Punjab government was prompted to act before the start of winter, in a bid to control smog in the province. Despite the government’s annual campaigns, citizens of Punjab have continued to suffer from high levels of air pollution. However, in winter 2018, citizens observed a small relief from smog due to two spells of rain at the onset of the season.
After several reports and grave concerns of experts and social activists regarding rising level of pollution in province, Punjab government in the first week of October had directed authorities to act against environmental polluters. Declaring smog a calamity, the government warned all polluters to abide by the law before October 10, further banning all kinds of crop burning under section 144.
However, authorities, after October 10 acted in pursuance of the government’s direction and found scores of brick kilns, industrial units, and vehicles in violation of environmental laws.
All district commissioners (DCs) and authorities concerned have compiled reports of their efforts in the last 20 days and have submitted them to the Environment Protection Department (EPD).
According to a report, the copy of which is available with Minute Mirror, districts teams cracked down on 2,227 brick kilns in 36 districts, where they imposed over Rs7.5m in fines on them. Authorities lodged FIRs against 513 owners, arrested 16 people and sealed 174 brick kilns. In Faisalabad, FIRs against 138 people were lodged, which was higher than other districts, followed by 98 FIRs in Multan.
In the 20 days, at least 1,509 industrial units were inspected by district teams and 121 units were sealed. FIRs were lodged against 159 people, while 78 were arrested.
Emissions through vehicles are the major reason of smog in Punjab. This year, authorities strictly directed to check the vehicles at all entry points of the districts. During the move, authorities also inspected at least 10,990 vehicles, of which 3,742 emitted toxic smoke. They impounded 184 vehicles, issued warning to 999 while imposing fine of Rs1.91m on them. No FIR was lodged against any vehicle owner.
Following crackdown and imposition of the ban, EPD Minister Muhammad Rizwan pointed out that brick kilns were fast converting to new zig-zag technology to avoid a ban.
Talking to Minute Mirror, Rizwan said that authorities were working day and night to curb the menace of pollution. He said that he had directed the authorities to continue their work without fear.
Earlier, there were reports that environmental teams faced problems in acting against the units of big giants and politically backed persons. However, Rizwan maintained that he had clearly directed not to spare any violator and deal with everyone according to the law.