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November 5, 2015

Building collapse a wake-up call

Lahore

November 5, 2015

LAHORE
The collapse of a four-storey industrial building on Wednesday should be treated as a wake-up call for the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) and Lahore Development Authority (LDA), which are literally sleeping over the files of hundreds of unsafe buildings in the provincial metropolis instead of vacating them to avoid similar incidents in future.
It is pertinent to mention here that dozens of people lost their lives in 2012 when a pharmaceutical laboratory in Hassan Town reduced to rubble following a huge explosion. Following this incident, the Punjab government suddenly waked up from deep sleep and formed committees to carry out a detailed survey of all the nine towns of the city for identification of industrial units operating in residential areas and using hazardous and inflammable material. Each committee comprises one official each from the Rescue 1122, Environment Department, TMA, Labour Department, Industries Department and Civil Defence. After identification, the committees graded the industries according to the level of threat they pose to the city. Sources at the CDGL claimed that the committees had identified presence of around 4,000 industrial units in residential localities out of which 267 industrial units were declared most dangerous. These 267 industrial units are still operating in various residential localities and have full capacity to spell a disaster and claim precious lives in case of an untoward incident.
Shahid, a resident of Kharak said even the death of scores of innocent citizens including children in recent past didn’t wake up any of the concerned government departments from sound slumber. He said his brother had lost his son in Kharak factory collapse and the horrific memories still haunt the family. Breakup of the data of 267 industrial units revealed that these include 108 units related to engineering, 91 related to chemicals, 34 related to garments, 22 units of textile and 12 related to Food. Data further

revealed that Samanabad Town is on the top with 153 industries comprising over 27garments units, 60 chemical units, 48 engineering units, six food related units and 12 textile units. Wagah Town captured the second slot with 60 industrial units including three garments, 15 chemicals, 36 engineering, five textile and one food while third is Shalimar Town with 13 industrial units. Other towns where hazardous chemicals and inflammable materials are used include Data Ganjh Baksh Town (11 industrial units), Ravi Town (Eight industrial units), Gulberg Town (Seven industrial units and Nishtar Town (Five industrial units). It is pertinent to mention here that there was no data related to Aziz Bhatti Town, which clearly raised aspersions over the health and genuineness of the survey and data collection process, sources claimed adding the government should hire a reputed independent company to check and verify survey results.
Sources claimed that even the Environment Protection Department (EPD), instead of sealing these most dangerous industrial units working in residential areas, issued notices to the majority asking them to update their firefighting system. Similarly, other concerned departments of the CDGL didn’t initiate any action to shift these industrial units from the residential localities.
As per Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, all the industrial units i.e. cottage or large are supposed to obtain
NOCs from the EPD, but over 70 percent industrial units operating in the city do not bother to fulfil this legal formality. Besides the above-mentioned industrial units, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) had also identified over 100 dangerous buildings and the authority had already issued notices to them during monsoon season. Tania Qureshi, spokesman for the WCLA said the Punjab government has recently released Rs 200 million for rehabilitation and restoration of 72 dangerous buildings in the Walled City of Lahore. She said restoration and repair work of these buildings will be started soon.