By Ali Raza
LAHORE: Rapidly increasing industrialization and commercialisation has turned the provincial metropolis — once known as the City of Gardens — into one of the most polluted cities in the country.
Even residential localities are not safe from increasing trends of commercialization and industrialization because many industrial zones, which were established some years ago outside the city, are now situated right in middle of the City.
Light and heavy industrial units have been established in various city localities i.e. Misri Shah, Baghbanpura, Mughalpura, Daroghewala, Bhagat Pura, Chah Miran, Shadbagh and other localities along the Bund Road and GT Road. These industries include steel foundries, steel re-rolling mills, kilns, steel furnaces, scrap yards, plastic recycling industry, marble grinding, furniture making and several other kinds of cottage industries. All of these industries are spreading different types of pollutions especially air, noise, vibration and heat.
According to a rough estimate, over 700 industrial units including a major chunk of steel-related industries are causing serious environmental hazards especially noise and air pollution in various localities of Northern Lahore. Majority of these industrial units are operating in residential localities posing serious threat to human life.
Besides residential areas, a good number of industrial and commercial ventures are operating around historical monuments i.e. Shalimar Garden, Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque. The Environment Department of the CDGL had already served notices to many of these ventures but in vain.
Majority of industries especially steel-related ones are using used tyres and substandard rubber products to keep their machines running and these machines releases pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides and toxic metals, which are considered the major source of air pollution in the provincial capital without any control and check.
For many years, marble grinding and furniture manufacturing industries had been established in residential areas of Ichhra, Ferozpur Road and various other residential localities of Bund Road and Ravi Road. Similarly, College Road, Township, has also turned into a mini industrial zone with the establishment of marble grinding industry.
A good number of industrial units manufacturing spurious motor oil are located in Badami Bagh while Rim Market along the historical Lahore Fort is still a serious threat to the biggest archaeological site of the city.
Likewise, Kot Lakhpat Industrial Area is also surrounded by residential colonies and residents of these localities are facing air and other kinds of pollution. Another serious threat being faced by residents is the discharge of polluted water by industries in local drains.
Brandreth Road has become the hub of mechanical spare parts while localities such as Rehman Gallian, Landa Bazaar, Prem Gallian, Adda Crown have changed into manufacturing areas of these spare parts. People have installed high temperature furnaces, steel rubbing and polishing and other related cottage industries in their homes.
Gulshan-e-Ravi – a purely residential locality of the city – is also rapidly changing into a cottage industry zone. A large number of machinery manufacturing units were established in various blocks of this locality especially those close to Bund Road. Motor workshops and heavy body vehicle manufacturing is another rapidly increasing industry in this locality.
Environmental experts have said that principle air pollutant in the smoke is Particulate Matter (PM) that includes toxic metal dusts and fumes of lead, chromium, cadmium and zinc and uncontrolled release of these emissions is deterioration air quality. They said air pollutants restrict photosynthesis, increase respiratory infections, birth defects, acid rains, and lung damage. They said that lead and cadmium are also present in fumes released by steel industry that cause collapse of central nervous system and degeneration of joints, lung and kidney diseases respectively.
Sources in the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) revealed that as per Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 all industrial units i.e. cottage or large are supposed to obtain NOCs from the EPD but over 70 per cent industrial units operating in the city do not bother to fulfil this legal formality.
Though the EPD runs various campaigns against these industrial units especially those burning used tyres and sub standard rubber products, but the issue is still alive and these industrial units are continuously using this “cheap alternate fuel”.
A senior official of the EPD stated that the department some months ago had already started a survey in North Lahore to access the situation. He said the department was also working on shifting these industrial units outside the City. He said recently some steel industries installed scrubbers to control hazardous effects of air pollution and the department was pursuing others to install these scrubbers.
On the other hand, the EPD has again planned to start a new drive against industries polluting the city and recently the department has sent challans of 13 industrial units to the Environment Tribunal for legal action.
The challans of Lahore’s industrial units and commercial concerns included W-tribe, Bao Screen Printing, Amjed Bricks Company, Abdul Hafeez Bricks Company, Nadeem Bricks Company, Aslam Bricks Company, National Bricks Company, Akram Bricks Company, Omar Bricks Company, Ejaz Bricks Company, Unique Marble Industries, Khas Marble Industry and a case against private person for using generator.
When contacted, a spokesman for the EPD said that the drive against industrial and commercial polluters will continue. He said cases against the above mentioned units had been sent to the Environmental Tribunal after completing all legalities including personal hearing notices, EPOs and final notices.
On the other hand, majority of citizens have appealed to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to pay attention on this vital and very important issue due to which the health of majority of the city residents is at stake. They also demanded immediate categorization of industrial, commercial and residential localities in the city, saying all industrial units should be shifted to industrial zones outside the city.