Sunday October 01, 2023

Failure in curbing smoke emitting industry: EPD seeks advice from Law Dept for penalising EPA Lahore team

By Ali Raza
February 04, 2023

LAHORE: The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has sought an advice from the Punjab government’s Law department about the course of action against the officers/officials of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lahore associated with the Judicial Water and Environmental Commission (JW&EC).

The former Secretary EPD Usman Khan initiated the move after the failure of EPA Lahore’s team in curbing smoke emitting industry especially pyrolysis plants and steel mills.

Sources in the EPD said the anti-smog drive of the government failed as there were serious differences between the EPA teams, Special Squad (Made by DC Lahore) and EPA Lahore team and allegedly, there were allegations that the EPA Lahore team de-sealed many units sealed by the special squad and EPA squads. Sources said over these controversies, the DC Lahore also constituted a team to inquire about the situation. They said pyrolysis plants recycle old and used tyres and their byproduct was carbon and unrefined oil, which was mostly used by steel industry as fuel. They said the use of carbon and unrefined oil put hazardous impacts on the environment.

However, sources said the complaints of EPA Lahore team were on a very high rate due to which the then Secretary EPD Usman Khan wrote a note to the Punjab’s Law Department (copy of which was available with the scribe) dated January 5, 2023.

The letter’s subject was “Request for advice regarding officers/officials posted in EPA District Lahore office and attached with Judicial Water and Environment Commission.” EPD Secretary wrote that the Lahore High Court vide order dated 15-02-2019 in writ petition No 227807/2018 titled Haroon Farooq Vs. The Government of Punjab etc. formulated the Judicial Water & Environment Commission (JW&EC) and gave the powers to Commission to issue directions.

He said subsequently, the Lahore High Court extended the powers of the JW&EC vide order dated 05-09-2019 in the following manner: “It is made clear that any action being taken by the Water Commission is on the directions issued by this Court and shall be deemed to be in pursuance to such directions. Therefore, it is reiterated that all public officers and functionaries in the Province of Punjab ought to extend full cooperation to the Water Commission in the fulfillment and discharge of its duties.”

He said the JW&EC was working to take effective steps on curtailing the effects of pollution and smog. The members of JW&EC comprised of officers and officials of Wasa, EPA, PHA, MCL, Irrigation and Auqaf Departments.

Furthermore, the Lahore High Court in the same Writ Petition Vide Order dated 04-10-2019 observed that “Learned A.A.G has also informed the Court that the Chief Secretary Punjab has directed that none of the officers associating with the Water Commission shall be transferred during the period that this important assignment is being carried out,” the Secretary EPD wrote and said in compliance with the aforementioned Court Orders, the officers/officials posted in EPA District Lahore have not been transferred by the department since the formulation of the Commission.

Giving details of EPA Lahore officers serving as members of the Commission and their posting, he said these included Ali Ejaz, Assistant Director (Field/Technical), EPA posted as Deputy Director Environment, Lahore. He was posted in EPA District Lahore since 20-05-2019.

Sheraz Ahmed, Senior inspector (posted in EPA Lahore on 16-01-2020), M Nawaz, Inspector (posted in EPA Lahore 21-12-2015), Sajid Ali, inspector (posted in EPA Lahore on 08-03-2017), Ali Raza, Inspector (posted in EPA Lahore on 25-08-2015) and M Husnain Khan, Inspector (posted in EPA Lahore on 17-04-2010).

“As the above-listed EPA officers have not been transferred for long, they have developed vested interests which are affecting the smog campaign and the overall performance of the Department,” the Secretary EPD wrote and said it was requested that this Department may be advised for taking a suitable course of action in the matter.

When contacted, Deputy Director EPA Lahore Ali Ejaz regarding the story, he said no such letter was written. The scribe then send him the image of the letter on which he claimed that he thought that was a misunderstanding and people involved in such activities were identified and an inquiry was underway against those officers under DG EPA. He denied that none of the officers/officials mentioned in the letter were involved in any such activities.

When asked about the opening of pyrolysis plants, he said people involved in smog and pyrolysis plants issues were identified and inquiry against them was already in progress.

Answering a question, he claimed that no pyrolysis plant was allowed to operate and if anyone found operational, FIRs will be registered against them. He also claimed that Section 144 imposed on use of carbon has been expired on January 15, 2023.