The legal wing of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has dropped charges against 85 industries after the environmental watchdog failed to substantiate the complaints against those industries with scientific and legal evidences, The News has learnt.
The industries cases of which were not forwarded to Sindh Environmental Protection Tribunal by the Prosecution included leading cement factories of the province, textile mills, automobile industries, paper mills, tobacco industries and petroleum companies.
The legal wing of the provincial environmental watchdog, Sepa, dropped charges against these industries after they found that they had no scientific or legal evidence against them while initial proceedings against these industries were also in violation of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (PEPA) 1997.
Talking to The News, the Deputy-District Public Prosecutor (DDPP), Abdul Maroof, said he scrutinised Sepa’s complaints against 85 companies and factories and was shocked to learn that neither had the Sepa expert collected samples of air, water, noise or other emissions nor was proper scientific analysis conducted.
“I was surprised to find out that all mandatory legal requirements in preparing a case against any polluting industry were not met as complaints lacked both scientific and legal lacunae” he claimed.
The Prosecutor who represents Sepa before the environmental protection tribunal claimed that even the Environmental Protection Orders (EPOs) issued to the complainants by the Sepa had no scientific and legal backing.
“I was told that these industries’ owners or administrative heads were summoned for public hearing but I wonder what type of charges were leveled against them during these personal hearings as the EPOs were without any solid legal and scientific backing”, he maintained.
The law expert said that there was no doubt that most of these industries were violating environmental laws of the state by creating the worst kinds of pollution but without proving it scientifically and legally, they can’t be prosecuted before any court of law.
“And taking these complaints, which have no basis, would be a waste of time, resources as well as against the spirit of justice” he argued.
The Sepa’s Prosecutor charged that Sepa lacked scientific expertise, trained staff and training for existing staff that led to such conclusion as majority of complaints prepared by them were useless in any court of law.
“Merely establishing an environmental watchdog is not enough if it has no technical experts, latest scientific equipment, knowledge of issues and the law to bring violators of the environmental laws to the justice” he observed.
Mr Abdul Maroof said that after dropping charges against these 85 industries, he had submitted a report to the environmental tribunal in which he had given the details of the complaints and reasons why the Prosecution was not interested in filing cases against those industries.
“The Industries against whom the cases were not forwarded to environmental tribunal include Javedan Cement, Thatta Cement, Zeal Pak Cement, Hasni Fabrics (Pvt) Limited, Akhtar Textile Mills, Pardhan A&S Oil Industry, Lakson Tobacco Company Ltd, Madina Textile, Golden Oil Industries, World Petroleum, Royal Automobiles, Al-Aftab Metal Engineering, Asl Paper Mills, Denim International, Nuttex International, Industrial & Mechanical Engineering, Akbar Textile International, Sindh Feeds & Allied Products, Adam weaving, Adamjee Diesel Engineering, Adamjee Enterprise, Adnan Power Private Limited, Ahmed Foods (Pvt) Ltd, Ghani Textiles, Al-Ahmed Silk, Burhan Metal Industries” he informed.
Some officials in the Sepa confirmed that the prosecutors representing Sepa before the courts had recommended to them to drop charges against some “polluting industries” on the grounds that evidence against them was not sufficient.
They, however, claimed that the industries against which they had prepared were definitely causing environmental pollution, especially the cement factories and vowed to collect more scientific data against them to prosecute them in the court of law.
On the other hand, some environmentalists who were previously associated with Sepa as officials claimed that Sepa had no intention to prosecute polluting industries in most of the cases as they catered to the “needs” of the agency’s officials simply by issuing EPOs to factories.
“Polluting Industries in entire Sindh including Karachi pay heavy sums to officials to prevent them from facing the environmental tribunal or any other kind of trouble” they claimed, adding that otherwise violations of environmental laws by the local industries could be pointed out even by common people with no scientific knowledge.
These environmentalists, who requested anonymity, claimed that they were working to highlight the anti-nature activities of the Sepa and as soon as they have the evidences against the corrupt junta, they would not only approach the courts but would also apprise the masses of their wrongdoing.