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February 20, 2020

Sepa incapable of checking toxic particles, gases in air

Karachi

February 20, 2020

With all four of its tyres deflated, battery stolen and sophisticated equipment rusting away, the mobile environment monitoring system of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has been out of order for over eight years, as the watchdog seems uninterested in measuring the ambient air quality data in Karachi or any other city of the province, The News learnt on Tuesday.

Sepa officials said the condition of the permanent environment monitoring station installed on the roof of the watchdog’s building in the Korangi Industrial Area is the same; it has been out of order for over a decade, and most of the station’s sophisticated equipment is either missing or destroyed due to no maintenance or repair.

They said that another such station installed on the District Central deputy commissioner’s building near Peoples Chowrangi has also been out of order for the past several years.

This station was supposed to provide ambient air quality data from the district and the surrounding areas, but for the past several years it has been dead and no Sepa official has visited the place for years, they added.

With financial assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), these systems had been provided to Sindh and other provinces as part of the Rs1.23 billion project launched by the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency in 2012, while the federal authorities had deployed its technical staff at the Sepa headquarters to monitor the situation.

According to the Sindh Environment Department, Jica’s share in the project was Rs973 million while the federal government had provided Rs260 million for the installation of these systems.

The provincial government was supposed to provide technical assistance and carry out

the maintenance and repair of the equipment, but it failed to perform its responsibilities.

A Sepa official said that a few years ago they had signed an agreement with the WWF-Pakistan for the evaluation of the environment monitoring stations, and the NGO’s experts estimated that Rs30 million was required to make them functional.

“A formal request was sent to the environment department for the funds required to make these permanent and mobile stations functional, but not a single penny has been provided by the government. Without the required funds, these stations can’t be made functional,” said the official.

In the absence of its functional air monitoring equipment and a lack of expertise, Sepa relies on private laboratories for collecting samples and their analyses, and whenever ambient air quality data is required on any place in Karachi, the watchdog requests private labs for ambient air quality monitoring.

Karachi is one of the top 10 polluted cities of the world with the most deteriorating standards of air quality due to carbon emissions, industrialisation and the burning of thousands of tonnes of solid waste, but Sepa lacks the necessary equipment and expertise to gauge the ambient air quality data in the city.

Blaming Sepa’s present chief Naeem Mughal as “the root cause of the watchdog’s destruction”, experts claimed that the man was declared incompetent by the Supreme Court’s water commission and he was removed from his post, but it was only temporary, as he was reinstated a few weeks later.