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All Sepa labs, monitoring stations dysfunctional in Karachi

KARACHI: All laboratories and environmental monitoring stations of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) in the city have been inoperative for at least four years “owing to financial constraints”, it emerged during a visit of a judicial commission on Thursday.

The commission led by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro also visited various spots in Qayyumbad, Korangi and Phase VII of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and was briefed on how untreated domestic and industrial effluent made its way into the sea.

No waste was currently being treated at any of the government facilities as they had been closed for want of rehabilitation, KWSB officials told the commission accompanied by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), KWSB and Sepa officials, members of civil society organisations, experts on water system and water quality, the petitioner as well as journalists.

The commission has recently been tasked by the Supreme Court to hold an inquiry into the state’s failure in providing clean drinking water and sanitation facilities in the province.

The commission’s terms of reference include examining the statutory role played by Sepa in the issues mandated to it under the Sindh Environment Protection Act, 2014.

No Sepa monitoring

At the Sepa office in Korangi, the commission was surprised to note that the department was seriously handicapped to play its due role as the three laboratories for chemical, microbiological and analytical analysis had been non-functional for years.

“They had been functional till 2012 under a project. With its conclusion, the funding resource was lost and these labs stopped operating,” a Sepa official told the commission, adding that the department had no finances to run its monitoring/ research facilities.

The environmental monitoring unit installed on the top floor of the Sepa building and a mobile monitoring station for testing air quality were also lying abandoned. The equipment was found in a good condition and it appeared that it had not been used much.

The staff revealed to journalists on condition of anonymity that the third environmental monitoring station set up at the office of the deputy commissioner of district central in North Nazimabad was also in a state of disuse.

They also said that the department not only faced a staff shortage and posts were lying vacant, it also lacked scientists of relevant fields to head those laboratories. The department had no funds to get repaired the five vehicles used for field visits.

All those monitoring/ research facilities were funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, they added.

The director general of Sepa was not in the office to respond to the commission’s queries as he was reportedly on a visit to Hyderabad whereas the staff had no satisfactory reply when queried over a nearby partially opened drain bringing toxic waste from the Korangi Industrial Area, which the commission had inspected before visiting the Sepa office.

Criminal negligence

Earlier, the commission inspected the Manzoor Colony and Gizri drains bringing waste to the Korangi Creek through the Malir River. The latter carried untreated sewage mainly from the DHA.

It also noted the spots where land reclamation was being done by the DHA in the Malir River, destruction of mangroves and the highly polluted environmental conditions.

Justice Kalhoro expressed annoyance when KMC official Nauman Arshad had no answer when asked about any reliable estimates on the untreated waste coming through those drains and the Malir River daily.

He held the district municipal corporations responsible for not collecting solid waste at source, which made their way into drains and choked them.

When asked whether Sepa ever carried out a study since its operation on the impact of untreated waste on ecology, Sepa official Waqar Hussain Phulpoto replied in the negative and blamed it on a shortage of funds.

An official of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources collected samples from all the inspected places.

Meanwhile, Justice Kalhoro issued notices to the deputy inspector general of police, deputy commissioner of district west and the SSP concerned to take measures for safety of the Manghopir filter plant, under threat by increasing encroachments, illegal excavation and sand-lifting activities.

KWSB clarifies

Apropos a recently published report on the judicial commission’s visit to the KWSB installations, the utility stated: “The water supplied to the city is properly chlorinated as per standard and there is no negligence.

“Though there is a shortage of filtration, it’s wrong to say that water is not chlorinated. The areas which fail to receive required chlorine in water are compensated through sodium hydrochloride,” says a press release.

“Chlorine is injected as per required standard, which is 1.2ppm up to the tail-end areas. The chief chemist regularly collects samples from various parts of the city and tests chlorine level.”

Courtesy : Dawn News

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