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August 25, 2018

As Karachi deals with unsanitary conditions, Sepa DG says mayor and DMCs responsible for cleanliness


August 25, 2018

As the smell of decomposing offal dumped in the open over the Eid break and burning garbage filled the air on Friday, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) stated that it had “no role and responsibility” in improving the city’s environment as the disposal of animal remains, lifting garbage and ensuring sanitation was the responsibility of the city government.

“We can only do studies and issue advisories on overall environment, but these advisories and studies are not limited to poor hygienic conditions in the city,” Muhammad Saleem Raza, the newly-appointed director general of Sepa, told The News when asked about the deterioration of the environment due to poor hygienic conditions in Karachi.

“The deterioration of environment due to lack of cleanliness is the responsibility of the Mayor and District Municipal Corporations. We [Sepa] cannot be held responsible for that,” he said. SEPA is an environmental watchdog and a regulatory body created with the objective to curb air, water, soil and marine pollution, keep an eye over various authorities and industries and prosecute those who are responsible for creating pollution in the province.

The DG said Sepa officials were “having an off” over the Eid break and the Karachi mayor and the DMCs should be asked about the unsanitary conditions.

However, public health experts and environmentalists held Sepa responsible for the poor air quality, the potential outbreak of diseases, including gastroenteritis and diarrhoea, and added that had the environmental watchdog performed its responsibilities fairly and properly, Karachi would have been a lot better place to live than many other cities of the country.

“Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) are monitoring, regulatory and advisory bodies and they are definitely responsible for the improvement of environment and taking those to courts which are causing environmental pollution, including municipal authorities,” said environmental expert and engineer Shahid Lutfi, while speaking to The News.

According to Lutfi, Sepa was to act as an advisory body and should have foreseen the issue of unhygienic conditions in the city on the occasion of Eidul Azha, but it failed to perform its role and responsibilities.

He said Sepa should realise its potential and regulatory role as per the Sindh Environmental Protection Act and grill all those people and authorities which were causing public health issues by open dumping of offal and blood of sacrificial animals on the roads.

Prominent environmental journalist Amar Guriro was of the opinion that said SEPA could have issued prior directives to the DMCs and even the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) about cleanliness in the city on Eidul Azha.

“If garbage is being burnt by the municipal authorities and it is causing air pollution, it is the responsibility of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency to prosecute those authorities,” he said. “If offal is being dumped and not being lifted from roads and streets, the environmental watchdog is responsible to take action or issue notices to the municipal authorities concerned.”

Dr Shahid Ahmed, a consultant physician was of the opinion that Karachi had become an “unliveable place” due to public health threats where all kinds of pathogens including bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms were thriving due to poor environmental conditions.

He said Karachi had become notorious for infectious diseases due to unhygienic conditions. “We are expecting a sharp rise in infectious diseases including gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, water-borne hepatitis as well as other bacterial and viral diseases due to extremely unhealthy environmental conditions because there is not regulatory body to keep the environment clean and healthy for citizens in Karachi,” Dr Ahmed said.

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