Nov 24 - Dec 07, 2003




Industrial plants accelerate economic activities and provide employment. Depending upon manufacturing process employed and the type of industry, various raw materials are processed to produce value-added intermediate or finished products that are marketed to generate cash and profits. To manufacture these products, apart from basic raw materials and components, varying quantities of water, electricity, gas, chemicals, oils, metals, consumables, etc. are used in large quantities. The remnants of these materials together with the process waste are supposed to be collected in effluent ponds and properly treated before disposal in to the waste water or other channels. However, it appears in total disregard of the rights of general public as well as the applicable environment laws, many industrial establishments have been over the past several years releasing the untreated toxic effluent into saline water/rainwater channels or on the barren lands. This way these industries might have saved a few hundred thousand rupees for them but have caused irreparable damage to the plant/animal life, groundwater and health of a large number of people in the area. This practice has to change and effluent treatment plants (ETPs) have to be installed on fast track basis. Moreover, this practice of releasing untreated effluents is also against the WTO arrangements to which Pakistan is a signatory.

EXISTING SITUATION: With a view to have an idea of the Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) currently installed in the country, industry compliance status of the prescribed environment requirements, reaction of the affected population to release of untreated effluents, activities for installing new ETPs and creating awareness about environment among the concerned people, the press reports for the past few months have been scanned. Situation with respect to the ETPs appears largely disappointing and calls for early remedial policy decisions to protect the environment, the natural resources and the people. Some of the reports that could be located are summarized as under:

1. In December 2002, a resident of a village had moved an application with the Ombudsman against the industrialists from Hattar Industrial Estate, the SDA chairman, the District Nazim and others for polluting the environment. He complained that the industries were draining out toxic effluents in the stream which passed through various villages posing serious health risk to the people. The Ombudsman reportedly ordered the respondents to ensure installation of treatment plants on the three nullahs within 12 months. According to a study conducted by the EPA, Peshawar in 1999, 38 industries drained out untreated toxic waste in open nullah and 79 others emitted hazardous gases. The SDA has reportedly prepared a feasibility report, which has since been passed on to the ADB for possible financing of the effluent treatment plant.

2. The leader of an ADB mission in May 2003, speaking at SITE Association of Industry (SAI) said that the purpose of their visit was to discuss a project which aimed at establishing six common effluent treatment plants and two toxic waste treatment facilities in Pakistan to help process industrial waste and absorb environmental impact of industrial by-products against a proposed loan of $100 million to Pakistan by the ADB. He emphasized upon the need of having an effluent treatment plant to meet the World Trade Order (WTO) environment standards and offered the SAI to have at least one combined effluent treatment plant in SITE Area. He said that the delegation would visit different industrial estates in Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan and discuss the issue of establishing effluent treatment plants with related associations and agencies. He noted that none of the industrial estates in Pakistan had effluent treatment plants except one, which was working in Kasur-Punjab and was meeting only 70 per cent of the requirement. The Chairman SAI reportedly agreed to have one plant in SITE industrial area to treat the effluent discharged by different types of industrial units, which presently is going gravitationally direct into the sea. He informed the ADB delegation that SITE area had only one domestic effluent treatment plant which was not in working condition. He said that this industrial estate has over 2,200 industrial units but when this area was planned there was no provision for effluent treatment plant.

3. An ADB expert had a meeting with the Minister of State for Environment. At this occasion the Minister reportedly said that the government will establish six effluent treatment plants at six selected high priority industrial estates and clusters in the country with an estimated cost of $ 145 million. He said in order to improve environmental conditions and private sector growth through promotion of best practices in the industrial sector; the government would implement the industrial efficiency and environmental management project with the support of the ADB. The project also aims at coping with the emerging challenges in wake of WTO going to be effective from January 2005. Under the WTO agreement all goods in the countries signatory to the agreement must be manufactured in environment-friendly atmosphere.

4. The Federal Minister for Industries, on a visit to the biological treatment plant of BASF, Pakistan said that to use the scarce resource of water efficiently, effluent from industries and sewage should be recycled and used for agriculture and production facilities, which would also reduce pollution in natural water channels and sub-soil contamination. He welcomed BASF offer to provide technical consultancy to install a similar biological treatment plant and added that he will provide all possible support to the industries to come at par with WTO standards. The Managing Director, BASF said that the waste-water treatment plant was established in 1990. By setting up a biological waste-water treatment plant in 2002, the company has set an example for other manufacturing units. He disclosed that the plant had a treatment capacity of 44,000 gallons of treated water per day. The company was re-using 17,000 gallons and supplying 14,000 gallons to neighbouring villages as per their requirements.



5. A treatment plant for chemical waste emanating from tanneries located in the Korangi Industrial Area sector 7-A would be completed in March 2004. The plant would cost around Rs 500 million to the government and the Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA). The Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister on Environment told a meeting of PTA officials that tanning units failing to comply with the laid down procedures and laws, would be treated as per law. He asked the PTA to accommodate more tanning industrial units, which earlier could not get them registered for treating their wastewater, to keep them in international business with their environment-friendly products. The PTA assured of its unconditional cooperation to government's efforts towards achieving better environment while sustaining business.

6. Concern was expressed on environmental degradation and poor implementation of laws at a workshop on the Environmental Laws and Environmental Impact Assessment held at Lahore on 1st October 2003. Views expressed briefly are: (i) Over 200 industries are disposing of in the river Ravi untreated toxic waste water which harms fish and animals, jeopardizes human health and is a carrier of diseases in the adjoining residential colonies; (ii) The industries in Lahore, Faisalabad and Sialkot are contributing major pollution loads into their water bodies; (iii) The Environment Protection Department (EDP) had won a case in 1998 against 121 industries responsible for polluting the Ravi by discharging toxic waste water and that out of 6,600 industries in the province, not more than 41 have water treatment plants; (iv) The Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) 1997 is a comprehensive law but legal provisions could not lead to desirable results without effective implementation; (v) Necessary resources have not been provided to the EPD for effective implementation of PEPA; and (vi) The media should create environment awareness among the masses.

7. About 45,000 acres land in Sindh has been damaged by the effluent from factories of Bahawalpur district. A drain emanating from Punjab carrying industrial effluent is emptying into Sindh. Polluted water has rendered lands barren and the growers could not cultivate their lands due to salinity and underground sweet water has turned brackish.

PROPOSED ACTION PLAN: Most of the industries appear not to be in compliance of the laws and regulations pertaining to treatment of effluents. In the past, Pakistan mostly has been lax particularly in the implementation of environment laws despite harmful impact of disposal of untreated toxic industrial effluents in water bodies. The loss to water sources particularly ground water, loss of plant and animal life and the health problems of the affected people appear to have been ignored to a large extent. It may be also noted that untreated municipal waste water released in water bodies has more or less similar bad impact. A small number of industries have installed ETPs. However, majority of the industrial establishments appear to love the immunity of disposing the untreated effluents into saline water channels, rivers, sea or barren lands. Despite the PEPA, many industries do not appear to be enthusiast to install ETPs for treating effluents before disposal. The EPA and the provincial EDPs appear handicapped due to paucity of manpower, training, exposure and financial resources. The situation is difficult but there is urgency for remedial measures in order to protect the people and the natural resources on the one hand and on the other to be in full compliance of the WTO agreements by start of 2005 for eligibility to export Pakistani products. The following action plan is proposed for consideration by the government and other stakeholders.

1. It must be realized that the non-WTO issues are even more important than the WTO issues and both need to be tackled properly at the earliest. The time available is very short whereas the task ahead is gigantic because industries all over the country are disposing untreated effluents mostly in the water channels. Specific policy decisions might have to be taken to bring the large number of existing defaulters to full compliance of the applicable environment laws. Measures would also have to put in place so that no new industry starts disposing untreated industrial effluent into water channels. Concurrent with the ETPs, plans might also be chalked out to tackle the untreated municipal waste water that is mostly released in the water bodies.

2. The federal government as well as the provincial governments have to play the pivotal role in institutionalizing the treatment of industrial effluent, by ways which might include: (i) Policy formulation for the effluent management and treatment; (ii) Fiscal incentives to the industries to import ETPs for the individual industries or for the combined ETPs in different areas of the country. On the lines of power generation plants, import of the ETPs may be allowed free of custom duty, sales tax or other charges relating to imports; (iii) Arranging loans and grants from multilateral agencies for setting up new ETPs or improving existing ETPs; (iv) Like the tannery effluent treatment plants at Kasur and Karachi, agree on the sharing of the capital cost for the setting up of the combined ETPs in various industrial estates, financed through the ADB / the World bank or implemented through other sources; (v) Providing all facilities to the Environment Courts; (vi) Strengthening the EPA and the provincial EPD by more manpower, training and funds; (vii) Review of the existing environment laws and regulations to make them suitable according to the present needs; (viii) Effluent survey of all medium and large industries in the country; (ix) Assessment of damage to water quality and ecology by the untreated effluent releases; (xi) After consultation with the stakeholders to agree on the revised time-schedule for implementation of requirements of Environment law; and (xi) Survey of standard of treated effluents released by industries having own ETPs and comparison with the standards prescribed by the ADM and the World bank for similar industries.

3. Proposals for Policy Formulation: Large industries such as power generation, sugar mills, cement, fertilizer, polyester, soda ash plants, etc located in the Industrial Estates might have their own independent ETPs. Large and medium industries located away from industrial clusters might also have their independent ETPs. Combined ETPs may be set up for the cluster of industries located within regular industrial estates, small industrial estates or outside the industrial estates. Industries to be set up in future should preferably have their independent ETPs if the site is not already connected to a combined ETP.

4. Role of Industrial Associations: The Associations of industries located in the planned industrial estates should come forward to collaborate with the government and help tackle the menace of untreated industrial effluents. Some of the ways in which these associations can help include: (i)



Planning, financing, implementation and operation of combined ETPs;
(ii) Educating their members about proper treatment of effluent before disposal and better effluent management within their factories to reduce the quantum of effluent; (iii) Collection of contributions from the factories benefiting from the combined ETPs for meeting capital costs, debt servicing and the periodic operating costs. (iv) Selection of appropriate technology for treatment of effluents coming from different clusters of industries; (v) Preference of treatment methods that help convert the industrial effluents into process water; (vi) Developing capability to manufacture major parts of the plant and equipment locally; and (vii) Facilitating the setting up of the ETPs by industries that are located outside the industrial estates.