Legislation on cards against illegal industry, environmental challenges: Minister

Legislation on cards against illegal industry, environmental challenges: Minister

LAHORE, Jun 04 (APP):Provincial Minister for Environment Protection Muhammad Rizwan has said that he is pursuing aggressive legislation to check the growth of illegal industry and resultant environmental challenges in Punjab.

In an interview with APP on the eve of World Environment Day (WED) at his office on Friday, he said in the absence of hazardous substances and waste management rules, industries are dumping their hazardous and toxic waste haphazardly which is a serious concern for public health and can turn into a major environmental catastrophe.

Minister Environment Punjab Muhammad Rizwan said lack of legislation has resulted in establishment of thousands of illegal industrial units in the province although the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Punjab had to formulate its rules and regulations under the Punjab Environment Protection Act 1997 (Amended 2012).

To a question, the Minister Environment hinted at the bureaucratic red-tapism which did not make rules to regulate industry, adding that review of the Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations which set procedure and criteria for issuance of environmental approvals have not been notified to-date.

About penalties to violators, he said the units which are constructed without obtaining environmental approval must be imposed administrative penalty as per section 17 of the Act, adding that the EPD could not levy any penalties as the rules have not been notified yet.

The Minister acknowledged the fact that hundreds of approvals were issued to the erring industry units, while many were pending for almost over a decade to the annoyance of the industry, adding that people could exploit the industry in the absence of rules.

“Issuance of NOCs to the illegally constructed industry was halted by him and these cases are being dealt legally in the Punjab Environmental Tribunal (PET)”, he responded.

“Making of rules was his top-most priority since assuming charge in 2019 and the draft legislation is lying with the provincial law department for vetting”, Muhammad Rizwan said, adding that scores of industrial units have been constructed without obtaining environmental approval in violation of section 12 of Punjab Environmental Protection Act, whereas every project has to acquire environmental approval at proposed site before starting construction.

Responding to another query, the minister said he is determined to get the rules and regulations approved for the good of industry and the environment, adding that same rules are being applied to all of industry at present.

“I also ordered a forensic audit of the EIA Directorate of the EPD soon after taking charge as minister”, he said, adding that the audit was necessary for transparency and smooth functioning of the department.

About environmental hazards of brick-kilns, he said the brick kilns emitted poison when the owners burnt plastics etc, adding that the kilns had been successfully transferred to zigzag technology in the province.

About challenges, Minister Environment said the biggest challenge was lack of staff, adding that the World Bank (WB) has provided funding of 273 million dollars to the EPD Punjab and the 40 percent of the funding is earmarked for restructuring. He said absence of technical staff was another challenge for the implementation of rules and regulations.

About the World Environment Day (WED) 2021, Muhammad Rizwan said the EPD, with nod from Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar, has decided to celebrate the first week of June as ‘Environment Week’ every year across the province.

Minister Environment Punjab Muhammad Rizwan hailed Prime Minister Imran Khan for his leadership role in fighting environmental challenges, adding that PM Imran Khan’s efforts have won the country respect and acclaim globally.