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Sepa rules out air pollution as cause after another death in Keamari

February 01, 2023

Another child has died in Ali Muhammad Goth of District Keamari in Karachi, raising the death toll of those who have passed away due to unexplained reasons in the area since January 10 to 19, according to officials, while the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has ruled out any environmental cause behind the deaths of the children and the adults in the affected area.

“We’re performing the autopsy of three-year-old Abdul Haleem to ascertain the cause of his death. He had been sick for a few days and died last night in Ali Muhammad Goth of the Mawach Goth area of District Keamari,” Police Surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed told The News on Tuesday.

Dr Summaiya said they had requested the authorities for the body of any person who died in Ali Muhammad Goth to perform their autopsy to ascertain the cause of their death because the authorities were clueless about the circumstances that led to the death of 19 people in the area over three weeks.

Sepa claimed in its report on Tuesday that the “results obtained from the laboratory do not indicate excess of any parameter in the air quality which could lead to casualties from inhaling any toxic gas”.

Signed by Sepa Director General Naeem Mughal, the report said the “environmental and health impacts were never being overlooked; it impacts on the health of living organisms. The recent incident in the Ali Muhammad village has never been linked with air pollution or the presence of toxic gases in the surrounding vicinity”.

The report recommended that the Sindh Health Department look into the possibility of an infectious disease or ingestion of contaminated food, saying that a proper response to this tragic episode is to have a thorough investigation done by a team of health specialists pondering over the symptoms, dose-exposure relationship, medical tests, diagnosis and even the air quality analysis, etc. to investigate all plausible reasons, and concluding with the exact and accurate rationale.

According to the report, Sepa had received information on January 26 through the electronic media as well as through a letter from the Keamari district health officer about the mysterious causalities of different age groups of children and adults in the vicinity of Ali Mohammad Goth.

Sepa immediately deputed a monitoring team to investigate and establish any environmental contamination factors in connection with the casualties. The investigation team observed multiple types of unauthorised commercial and industrial activities underway, like plastic waste dumping, iron ore manufacturing, warehouses, said the report, adding that such activities in residential areas are due to the amalgamation and conversions of industrial and commercial activities.

“Majority of the residents of the village are employees within the said commercial set-up. Unplanned industrial/commercial dumping of industrial solid waste activities are taking place in the area. Mapping of the village does not allow to establish unauthorised commercial and industrial activity.”

Sepa had established a mobile environmental laboratory to monitor the ambient air quality in the village’s centre. “The lab tried to detect sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter (PM10), particulate matter (PM2.5), suspended particulate matter, lead and total volatile organic compounds,” said the report. However, it added, Sepa found no trace of any hazardous gas or material in the air of the area.

The report said that door-to-door survey was also conducted to compile information about the type of unauthorised activities causing degradation of the environment, adding that Sepa has initiated legal action against illegal commercial/industrial activities under the provisions of the relevant laws.