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November 29, 2018

Sindh accuses federal govt of not sharing culprits’ names


November 29, 2018

Sindh Environment Minister Taimur Talpur on Tuesday accused the federal government and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) of “shielding” the perpetrators of an oil spill along coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan, including Mubarak village, last month, saying that “for some reason”, the federal authorities were not revealing the identities of the perpetrators.

“The federal government and its agencies, including the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency and the Pakistan Navy, must be aware of the source of the oil spill that polluted coastal areas of Sindh, especially Mubarak village, and areas around Charna Island. Unfortunately, the federal government and the PMSA have not been willing to share their findings and the identity of perpetrators,” he said while talking to The News at his office.

A vast area of Sindh’s coast was polluted in the last week of October when very thick oil, which was later identified as bunker oil used for powering ships, was witnessed in the coastal belt stretching at least 25 kilometres around Muabrak village and resulted in the deaths of thousands of marine creatures, including fish, while it deprived hundreds of fishermen of their livelihood for weeks.

Initially, Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited was accused of causing the oil spill, but later the Baclochistan Environmental Protection Agency cleared the company of charges, but neither the Balochistan and Sindh environmental agencies nor the federal authorities have so far revealed the identities of the perpetrators.

But vowing to continue with investigations, Talpur said that as per the investigations carried out by the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), either of the two ships brought to the Gadani ship-breaking yard for dismantling was responsible for the oil pollution as their crew dumped the extra bunker oil in the sea for becoming “gas-free” so that they could easily be docked at the ship-breaking yard.

“Our investigators have reached the conclusion that either MS Al-Jawzaa and MS Volt, which were brought to the Gadani ship-breaking yard for breaking, was responsible for the oil pollution, but the federal agencies that have the resources and evidences of this wrongdoing are keeping mum on this situation,” he said, adding that without evidence and support from the PMSA and the Pakistan Navy, Sepa could not prosecute the culprits.

He said that though neither the federal government nor the PMSA provided any support or coordination in ascertaining the source of oil spill, they had decided to continue with their investigations and would summon all the accused, including the owners of both the ships and the Byco Petroleum Pakistan Limited, to appear before the agency and cooperate in the investigations for the identification of the actual culprits.

“We are also going to write letters to the Maritime Security Agency and Pakistan Navy to let us know about their findings because we want to know the facts and prosecute those who did harm to our coast, sea, marine life and our people.”

To a query regarding the cutting of trees in Karachi, he said tree-felling was not allowed and asked Sepa to take cognizance of the offence and penalise those involved.

Conocarpus trees

The environment minister said studies should be initiated to ascertain if Conocarpus trees were not suitable for the environment, and unless it was ascertained, nobody should be allowed to cut these trees.

“I have been told that this tree is not suitable for the environment and biodiversity, but this should be investigated first through a panel of experts from different organisations. Without experts’ opinion, grown trees of conocarpus should neither be uprooted nor cut in the city and the province.”

Sepa director Naeem Mughal said several other institutions, including the KMC, DMCs, Sindh Forest Department and cantonment boards, were responsible for the protection of trees and they should play their role in this regard.

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