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June 6, 2011

No progress on Hazardous Substances Management Rules


June 6, 2011

Indifferent attitude of the federal government towards the deteriorating law and order situation could be judged through the fact that it has not notified the Hazardous Substances Management Rules drafted some eight years back for regulating the chemical factories. Sources in the Environment Department disclosed it to The News that in 2003, Hazardous Substances Management Rules (HSMR) were drafted to relate to Section 14 of Environment Protection Act 1997. However, the HSMR were put on the back burner despite the fact that terrorists have been challenging the writ of the government for the last many years due to free availability of explosive material. A source in the Ministry of Industry has confided to The News that the Punjab government had also stopped the Ministry of Industry, Labour Department and Civil Defence from inspecting and visiting chemical industries. He claimed that a group of traders met Punjab chief minister and apprised him that the representatives of aforementioned departments were creating hurdles to their work by objecting to many things, including the underage labourers. Following the meeting, the departments were stopped from visiting chemical factories through a notification and only the Environment Department was allowed to conduct inspections for proper action.
Ironically, the Environment Department had no authority to issue licenses to the factory owners due to the unavailability of the HSMR. An official of Environment Department has claimed that as the licenses are not being issued to the owners of factories, producing hazardous material, there is no data available with them for vigilance. He said that in Lahore, Environment Department had only seven inspectors for vigilance and they could not cover the residential areas spread with the population of over 10 million people.
To a question, he said that Environment Department also lacked equipment to check the hazardous material, including highly inflammable chemicals

and explosives. He said the laboratory of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) was only to check the waste material and gases but it had no capacity to check chemicals.
Moreover, another official of the Environment Department told that the dealers of chemicals converted residential areas into commercial areas for the purpose of storing chemicals in connivance with town municipal administrations and the Lahore Development Authority in violation of building bylaws and later start producing hazardous material.
Rafay Alam advocate, an expert in environmental issues, talking to The News, said that though the HSMR had not been notified, the Environment Department could take action under Section 11 and Section 16 of the EPA 1997 by issuing Environment Protection Order, considering that any unit or factory was causing environmental hazards. He said under the 18th Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan, the provincial government had to notify such rules and regulations after June 30, 2011. To a question, Rafay said the government should enhance manpower of highly trained officials and officers in the Environment Department to regulate the industries producing hazardous chemicals. He said a separate modern lab fully equipped with instruments should be established so that not only the environment could be saved from pollution but also the supply of explosives and hazardous chemicals for terrorist activities could be stopped.-By Arshad Dogar

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