By Muhammad Bashir Chaudhry

Oct 11 - 17, 2004




Our cities have high levels of pollution which is causing health problems for the citizens. The civic and other government authorities are adopting measures to reduce level pollution within safe limits. Some of the district governments have evacuated buffaloes to clear the atmosphere and are in the process of shifting inter-city bus stands outside the city. Authorities in other cities are taking similar steps considered important for future growth. Small industries or factories operating within two cities, alleged to be causing pollution, have been asked by the authorities to relocate outside the city. Summary of the press news in these two cases is given below:

*The district government Rawalpindi has reportedly issued notices to the owners of small industrial units situated in densely populated areas to shift their factories outside the city, by 30th November as otherwise, legal action would be taken against them. Such factories are soap manufacturing, shoes factories, and leather factories. The citizens had earlier complained that chemicals being used in these factories are polluting atmosphere and drinking water because of which people are suffering from fatal diseases. They appealed to the district government to shift these factories.

*Over 200 workshops set up by goldsmiths in Saddar, Karachi were sealed off by the Saddar Town administration through the Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA) on 1st September 2004. The action, aimed at ensuring public health, reportedly has been taken under an order from the Sindh Ombudsman on complaints that the workshops were causing pollution. The President of the Pak Gold Association was quoted saying that the owners of the workshops had paid millions of rupees to set up their business. He reportedly contested the complainants' claim that the workshop had been causing pollution. He mentioned that the goldsmiths had been offered an alternative place of work in Landhi/Korangi area but the same was located far away from the business centre. He added that their business would be destroyed if they moved to such a place.  

The above reports draw attention to areas of significant social and economic importance for the people of towns and cities all over the country. The remedial measures similar to the ones described above might soon be taken in many other towns and cities, which often are thickly populated and suffer from pollution of different types. The authorities have started doing something which should have been completed long ago. It is good that a beginning has been made. However, in doing so the authorities are urged to show consideration and proceed in a manner that causes minimum of unemployment and hardships for the people involved. The following course of action is suggested for consideration of the authorities:


Our towns and cities have pollution of many types. In certain places there might be noise pollution and the people of the area might be perturbed due to that. Other areas might be affected by bad-smelling odour emanating from chemical processes or from burning of different materials including city or hospital waste. There might be pollution due to overflowing sewerages or contaminated water. Air may have high levels of carbon and pollutant gases from exhaust of vehicles, which is not safe to breathe. Most areas might have more than one pollutant in excessive quantities affecting the people living or working there. As a first step, the authorities might start awareness campaign for the people to show them how pollution levels can be reduced by every one of them.

Different towns and cities might be surveyed to list industries, workshops and business establishments that cause pollution. It would be proper if the pollution problems of different cities are systematically studied by the teams of experts appointed by the district governments. The terms of reference might be drawn in a transparent and systematic manner. The experts might be asked to submit their findings within reasonable period. The citizens might have access to these reports. The local school and colleges could be associated in this important work. The students and the teachers would be able to do reasonable job in a short time provided they are trained by experts for the assignment.

The citizens and the authorities might discuss different serious pollutants and agree on a tentative plan to rid the areas from such pollutants in a systematic manner within the next two-three years. The priorities for tackling the pollutants might be agreed in the light of hazards to the citizens and the resources available for the remedial measures. A campaign launched and implemented jointly by the district governments and citizens has more chances of early success. Some of the ways in this regard are discussed below.

Common citizens as well as the owners of the small industries and factories might be provided an opportunity to discuss pollution issues and the likely solutions in a friendly atmosphere under the auspices of the district governments. It might be possible in certain cases to bring the level of pollution down to the safe limits even at the existing locations of industries by making some adjustments in the manufacturing process or by adding some equipment for the purpose. For other industries relocation might be the other solution. As relocation involves large expenditure most owners would be reluctant to do it even though they appreciate the damage being caused by the pollution. The two-prong approach might be more appropriate.

Relocation of existing operational industries is not an easy task. The procedures for relocation to a new site might be cumbersome. The new site might not be suitable for security reasons. Also, the new site might be without any infrastructure for transport of raw material and finished goods. Due to these factors the industry owners might not be keen to relocate. They might rely on delaying tactics and win some breathing space. The government might adopt a fair approach to this problem in order to win their cooperation.

Some of the small industries within the city might have been established within municipal limits according to applicable rules, while a few others might have been set up in disregard of the rules. There might also be few cases which were originally set up outside the municipal limits but the cities spread outward and now these industries are in thickly populated areas. Each industry might be dealt with accordingly. The same rules should not apply to all three categories.

Relocation of industries would be time consuming process and the government might allow adequate time to the owners to move the plants and equipment at new location. The new location would require construction of industry buildings which will take time. The government might build the necessary infrastructure for transport of goods. The government might also encourage the banks to finance the industries at new location. The authorities might also ask the utility companies to provide the necessary connections to the industries on fast track basis and without involving large cash outlays up-front. These steps are considered essential for smooth relocation of industries.

There might be certain workshops, repair-shops and manufacturing industries that could be safely relocated in technical trade centres specially built within the city for their relocation. Populated areas of towns and cities can be overtime cleaned of such nuisance by compulsory relocation to the technical trade centres. The technicians and the workers, without families, could also be housed there. In case such trade centres are built up and have all the utilities there, many people would willingly relocate there provided the rents are reasonable. The built up areas might be sold to the workshop owners. Private parties in partnership with public sector could build such centres in a short time and relieve the government of most of the headache.

Small industries selected for relocation outside of the towns and cities might be accommodated in the cottage industrial areas or small industrial estates where all utilities and infrastructure is available. The government might develop these areas and the plots of land might be leased out or sold to the owners of the industries. The government may have to build and finance collective effluent treatment plants in these areas. Relocation to these special areas might proceed smoothly if utilities and infrastructure together with arrangements for security of life and property are assured by the government. Unplanned relocation might create problems for all concerned.


The relocation of industries would free the land and utilities at the old sites within the populated areas in the towns and cities. In some cases land might be originally encroached while in other cases land might be rented or owned. The district governments might reserve public land so vacated for public welfare projects or open parks for general public. The land owned by the workshops could be exchanged by the district government with the new industrial plots in the small industrial estates. The land so acquired could also be turned into public parks. The district government might have uniform and fair policy for utilization of the private land so vacated by the private sector in any lawful manner of their choosing.