A clean environment has yet to become the priority of the government of the day and the previous governments equally neglected this aspect. A report published in the Minute Mirror exposes the government’s negligence on this front. The story says the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not upgraded its laboratories for testing wastewater samples. These laboratories were established in eight districts of the province – Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, and Rawalpindi. Originally designed to test up to 58 parameters of wastewater, these laboratories have downgraded to the capacity of testing a maximum of eight parameters of wastewater. This negligence of the EPA is putting the lives of human beings and aquatic animals in danger. Since the inception of the first laboratory in Lahore in 1997, now when more than 20 years have passed, and instead of coming up with more innovative technology to track and test wastewater and other waste material, the EPA has failed to maintain the existing standard of the labs. Similarly, such labs have been provided with a set of selected districts, instead of coming up with such arrangements at every district headquarters.
The laboratories that had been established to enhance the capacity of testing and monitoring surface water, drinking water, and air have now been degraded rather than upgraded. As per National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS), these labs had been designed to test at least 58 parameters out of a total of 102 parameters of the sample. Punjab Environmental Quality Standards (PEQS) later adopted these standards of NEQS but failed to keep up with it. Rather than further enhancing these testing parameters, the laboratories’ capacity has been reduced to eight parameters of PEQS.
Due to such a low testing capacity of the labs, it is not possible to analyze the environmental situation in Punjab accurately, and hence maintaining the regulations regarding violators on scientific grounds has become impossible. Due to the unavailability of accurate records or data regarding wastewater pollution, it has become impossible to take action against or hold the industries accountable. In addition to that, the appliances provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the Punjab EPA, including gas chromatograph (GC), atomic absorption spectrometer (AAS), ion chromatography (IC), multi-gas analyzer (Pg-250), etc., are not being put to the right use hence resulting in a waste of resource due to the incompetency of those in authority.
This is high time the government set up upgraded and modern labs at the district level and also come up with reliable air quality testing gadgets. Smog already has set in as a fifth season, because of our disregard for the environment. If the apathy towards the air, water, and surroundings continue, we may face a permanent season of discomfort.