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October 11, 2020

Call to introduce environmental police to mitigate serious health hazards

National

October 11, 2020

PESHAWAR: The civil society members, vying for a clean environment, have called for introducing environmental policing to mitigate the serious health hazards in the provincial metropolis and elsewhere in the province.

Dr Adil Zareef and other environmental activists said this type of policing was direly needed as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Peshawar Development Authority’s performance is inadequate.

They suggested that the Environmental Police or Green Police force can be given administrative powers to impose penalties on those vitiating the environment, adding these powers could range from financial to administrative penalties like imposing a ban.

The activists suggested that school buses and heavy vehicles were the most toxic polluters and deserve to be fined heavily.

The vehicles penalties can be categorized according to the size and level of pollution -light, medium and heavy vehicles, the elaborated.

The environmental activists said the worst polluters are industries (large, medium and small, formal and informal) brick kilns, etc, vehicular, Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar, waste disposal contractors and Tehsil Municipal Officers, etc.

It may be mentioned here that Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan Mr Justice Gulzar Ahmad, while at the Green Bench hearing at the Peshawar High Court had wondered where were billions of trees planted as he and other judges didn’t see any tree on government land and along the roadside on the way from Islamabad to Peshawar a day ago.

He had expressed extreme displeasure over the toxic pollution levels in Peshawar city, reprimanding the officials for neglecting their duties.

The chief justice had observed that while coming to Peshawar, he and other judges had witnessed a blanket of dust enveloping the city, which exposed the performance of the relevant quarters for addressing the issue.

Addressing the EPA officials, he had said: The officials appearing before the bench were clad in neat and ironed clothes clearly showing that they had spent the daytime in air-conditioned rooms instead of working in the field. Practical steps are needed. “Writing letters is a clerical job and the officers should focus on practical work by going to the field.”

For the people of Peshawar, who have quietly and resolutely suffered the unbearable environmental hazards of air pollution during the past few years, this was a much-needed wake-up call to the slumbering officials who have criminally neglected duties.

The air pollution level in Peshawar is extremely hazardous as compared to permissible WHO level (ppm 10).

A recent study conducted by IMSciences, comparing ppm levels in Phase 7 Hayatabad (2450 ppm) to Regi Lalma Township (45 ppm) showed alarming results.

“The unregulated chipboard and Medium Density Fiber industries operating illegally right under the nose of EPA are the worst polluters. The residents of posh Hayatabad Township cannot hazard to step out of their homes, especially during evenings, when they operate at full capacity,” said Dr Mohammad Rafique, who teaches Environmental Economics at IM Sciences, Hayatabad.

“Therefore there is an urgent need to take strict administrative measures to improve the quality of air as it affects a huge population and serious diseases like cardiovascular, respiratory and malignancies and others. The noxious gases are even more toxic to health,” added the academician.

Dr Rafique suggests: “Hazardous industrial emissions can be improved through mitigation measures like technology adoption by industries through the use of scrubbers and reverse filtration which can be used as recycled waste as by-products of fuel.

“The other mitigation measures were invoking Article 9: Right to Life under which Right to Clean Air. Therefore Clean Air Act should be notified by the provincial government, according to Provincial Air quality standards as mentioned in EPA KP guidelines.”

Dr Mohammad Inayatullah Khan, Principal, Faculty of Law, UoP, said: “The EPA & PDA both have a mandate but are lacking in political and administrative will to carry out their assigned duties.”

He said the law, if not implemented, is not worth the peace of paper it is written as mentioned in a case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The provincial government needs to address environmental issues as a priority. “A proactive role towards implementation of existing laws must be ensured”, he argued.

Dr Inayatullah, who holds a PhD in Environmental Law added: “Notification for the appointment of members of the Environmental Protection Council should be invoked, as it is required under the KP Environmental Protection Act, 2014”.

According to the PEPA mandate, “the Environmental Protection Council needs to be activated. The bi-annual meetings are mandatory to present performance of EPA. These reports are also mandated to be shared on their website.”

The council acts as an executive body which reports to the chief minister on a regular basis and gives recommendations according to the performance of administrative bodies like EPA and PDA.