Saturday September 23, 2023

EPA allows pyrolysis plants to operate

By Ali Raza
January 31, 2023

LAHORE:After years of opposition to pyrolysis plants, the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suddenly taken a U-turn and allowed these plants to operate freely.

During the past several years the EPA has declared the industry as an anti-environment and hazardous because the pyrolysis plants by-products included black carbon and sub-standard oil, which are a big threat to the environment.

During the ongoing anti-smog drive, the district administration started demolishing the pyrolysis plants but recently the Punjab EPA has stopped its teams from taking any action against these plants on an order of the Punjab Environmental Tribunal (PET).

The EPA sent a letter to deputy/assistant directors (Field) with the subject “Direction of honorable Punjab Environmental Tribunal, issued under appeal No. 76/2020 on 17.10.2022”, copy of which is available with The News. In the letter it was ordered to avoid dismantling of pyrolysis plants till final decision. The letter continued that Punjab Environmental Tribunal has remanded case of M/s Shalimar Industry Pyrolysis Lahore to the Director General EPA, Punjab Lahore with the direction to decide the pending application of appellants made under section 12 of PEP Act 1997 after examining and pursuing the lab reports submitted by the applicants strictly in accordance with the law.

“The Director General EPA consented that the matter of pyrolysis plants will be considered as per law and in the meanwhile no pyrolysis plant will be demolished till the decision,” the letter said.

Sources in EPA claimed that through its letter, Punjab EPA left the impression as this was the PET order not to demolish any plant whereas in its decision, PET Chairman said, “With the concurrence of parties it is agreed that parties will appear before Director General EPA and he will try to resolve the matter in accordance with law.” EPA sources claimed that after meeting pyrolysis plant owners, the Director General allegedly extended his ‘support’ to the industry. They said the DG EPA also wrote a letter to Deputy Commissioner Lahore to avoid taking action against pyrolysis plants. “Kindly, issue necessary directions to the Anti Smog Squads working under your control not to demolish pyrolysis power plants or any other industrial unit if the same is not in operation,” the DG asked DC Lahore in his letter (copy available with The News).

Sources said that despite the fact that there was no room for the establishment of pyrolysis plants industry in the province, Punjab EPA has accepted applications from at least 19 pyrolysis plants for environmental approval. There are over 40 pyrolysis plants operating illegally in various parts of Lahore while over 300 have been established in other districts of the province. Though they don’t emit smoke but their by-products like carbon black and sub-standard oil are biggestthreat to the environment. A senior officer of EPA seeking anonymity said that pyrolysis industry started to establish in 2010 in the province and EPA declared it illegal. These plants were sealed time and again by EPA and other authorities concerned, and several FIRs were lodged against the owners of these plants but the powerful mafia behind this industry managed to continue its illegal business.

During the recent anti-smog campaign, Punjab EPA and deputy commissioner’s squads identified such plants as the major polluters in the City and despite the issuance of notices, sealing the units and FIRs, owners of these plants continued their illegal operation in violation of environmental and local government laws.

It is pertinent to mention here that the District Officer (Environment) requested the DC Lahore to demolish these plants as they were not just polluting environment but continued extracting oil from used tyres without taking any safety measure.

When contacted, EPD Secretary Usman Ali Khan expressed his ignorance of the prevailing situation. “There is no policy change of the department’s stance regarding pyrolysis plants, which is that these plants are illegal, hazardous and should not be allowed to operate,” the secretary said, adding he should investigate the matter as on whose orders and why pyrolysis plants were allowed to operate. To a question of allegations of corruptions, he said he will also investigate this issue.