LAHORE: A number of industrial units are throwing highly toxic wastewater in Ravi River near the provincial metropolis, which is resulting in serious consequences with the public health and environment in general.
Environmental Protection Department (EPD), which has a mandate to take action against such industrial units, seems ineffective rather it has given a freehand to these units to throw highly toxic wastewater in the river. Sources said in May 2021, EPD’s District Officer Lahore carried out wastewater sampling of several industrial units, mostly situated in Sundar Industrial area and got shocking results. Sources added these industrial units include pharmaceutical companies, dyeing units, food and beverage companies and cosmetics companies. Sources said an EPD team took samples from almost 35 industrial units out of which the result of only seven was in safe limits while result of the rest of 28 companies had crossed the normal limits of environmental standards.
The parameters checked in this testing included the measurement of pH, BOD, COD, TDS, TSS, Sulphate, Sulfide and Oil & Grease. As per Pakistan Environmental Quality Standards, the normal value of these hazardous chemicals in wastewater of any industrial unit must not increase from 6-9, 80, 150, 3500, 200, 1000, 600, 1.0 and 10 respectively.
Sources said most of the polluters have not installed wastewater treatment plants, which is mandatory for every industrial unit and EPD has full powers to immediately seal any such units but in this case EPD gave time to the polluters to install wastewater treatment plants till May 2021, which has also passed. As per the report, highly toxic materials were found in the wastewater of a dyeing company situated near Wasa Disposal Centre, Jia Musa, Shahdara, as the value of pH, BOD, COD and TSS exceeded the PEQS limits. Against the normal values, described above, the factory’s wastewater included 11.5 pH, 945 BOD (80 is normal), 2857 COD (150 is normal) and 490 TSS (200 is normal). Wastewater samples collected from a foods and beverages’ company revealed that it was throwing out very high values of pH, BOD, COD, TSS and Sulfide. Similarly, wastewater samples collected from a laboratories unit in Sunder Industrial Estate were high in values of pH, BOD, COD and Sulfide and a pharmaceutical unit was throwing out wastewater high in values of BOD, COD, TSS and Sulfide. Environmental experts said pH is a measure of how acidic/basic water is. High pH level is very dangerous for aquatic life as it increased the amount of hydrogen in the water. They said high pH in water can lead to the development of bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts & parasites.
Talking about the BOD, experts said that the greater the BOD, the more rapidly oxygen is depleted in the water. This means less oxygen is available to aquatic life.
Talking with The News, EPD District Officer and focal person of Punjab Water Commission Ali Ejaz said 25 factories, which were exceeding PEQS limits, were given notices and 10 were sealed. He, however, admitted that the sealed units reopened after they submitted affidavits that they will install wastewater treatment plants in the next 25 days.
To a question about the role of Water Commission in sealing and de-sealing of polluters, he said the commission was empowered by Lahore High Court. He said commission’s procedure was faster than EPA as cases more than 10 years old were still pending in EPA. About taking action against the polluters, EPD Provincial Secretary Zahid Hussain said Water Commission had no jurisdiction to seal or de-seal any industrial unit. He said the commission was working without any TORs and the department can’t take action against any polluter especially in and around the provincial metropolis.