EPA finalizes demolition of pyrolysis plants

EPD secretary informs decision has been made over continuous violation

For representational purposes only

Under its steps to control the smog, the Punjab Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to demolish top pollution-causing industry, pyrolysis plants in the city, Minute Mirror learnt on Tuesday.

These plants have been busy extracting oil after burning used tires for many years in the city premises at the cost of citizens’ health.

Since Lahore has become among the top polluted cities in the world, authorities have imposed a ban on all such activities leading to smog. However, despite the clear ban by authorities, these plants continued their operation while emitting toxic smoke along with producing cheap and substandard oil, which further increased air pollution.

“Despite the various activities and sealing over the violation, these again continued their work in connivance of EPA officials,” an official privy to development informed Minute Mirror. He said that such plants burnt used tires to extract harmful environmental oil, steel wires, and huge amounts of carbon ash.

Officials stated that to show their efficiency during smog season, EPA’s field staff had been sealing such plants, but later used to de-seal without fulfilling the requirement. “How this could be possible that despite various actions, these plants remained busy in their dirty business,” he said while alleging EPA’s Lahore field staff behind the operation of such plants.

He added, “EPA’s field staff remained behind such plants and for many years it kept hiding them as it never maintained their complete record.”

Another official informed that after the strict warning of the previous environment secretary, EPA Lahore DO provided a list of over 20 pyrolysis plants. “Most of them were sealed during the ongoing anti-smog actions but most of them were reportedly working again after breaking seals,” he said.

He informed that the EPA team followed some trucks carrying used tires and traced 12 pyrolysis plants. These plants include Sawel Khan Pyrolysis Plant, Qadir Khan Pyrolysis Plant, Iqbal Pyrolysis Plant, Haji Aslam Pyrolysis Plant, Javed Khan Pyrolysis Plant, and SA Kasuri Pyrolysis Plant.

“Interestingly these plants were recently closed down by anti-smog squads,” he said.

He also stated that it was the responsibility of field staff not to open them again and this matter had forced EPA to demolish such plants as this was the only solution left with the department.

EPD Secretary Usman Ali Khan confirmed that the department had decided to demolish these plants as they were operating illegally while producing a huge amount of toxic oil and carbon ash. “Department is also investigating why such plants started operating after they were sealed earlier during the action against polluters,” he informed Minute Mirror.

In response to a question, Khan said that EPA officials were confused over the parallel working of the judicial commission which ordered de-sealing of a plant that was earlier sealed by an anti-smog squad. However, he said that the plant was again sealed by the EPA team as it was still operating in violation.

When asked why EPD was reluctant to transfer EPA’s district officer Ali Ijaz when he failed to control pollution and had also become a controversial officer, EPD secretary informed that Lahore High Court had banned DO’s transfer, hence he was unable to transfer him.

Health experts warned time and again over the extreme pollution caused by such plants. Expressing his concerns, famous physician Dr. Ikram Ghauri said that a large number of citizens were suffering from lung diseases due to the operation of these pyrolysis plants. “During the process of extracting oil from used tires, a huge amount of carbon ash is produced, which is vulnerable for workers and also the residents of the city,” he informed.

Ghauri continued that the pollution of tire extracting units not only caused lung diseases but was also one of the major causes of cancer.

Samiullah Randhawa is a correspondent covering environment, climate change, food, water and ecology. He is an International Center For Journalists alumnus and a fellow at Kettering Foundation Ohio, USA. He has won two Agahi Awards for reporting on climate change and water crisis. He tweets @sami_randhawa and can be reached at samiullahfarid@gmail.com.

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