Karachi: The health and safety of residents of Clifton Block 1, 2 and adjoining areas will continue to face serious threats till the time KPT continues to operate its coal yard in close vicinity of these residential localities.
Speaking at a press briefing, concerned environmentalists lamented sheer apathy of the relevant authorities as no one ever bothered to come forward to take strict penal action and shut down the coal yard having serious consequences for nearby Clifton residents.
The media briefing on petition on air pollution in Karachi was organized by National Forum for Environment and Health in connection of campaign Save Karachi.
Speaking on the occasion, the concerned environmentalists demanded the government to immediately shut down the coal yard of KPT near Clifton to save the situation of environment of the area from utter crash.
They said that relevant authorities allowing continued operation of the coal yard were in fact committing an act of sheer criminal negligence having serious repercussions for environment and safety of the entire area.
They demanded that the government should come up with a comprehensive, human and environment friendly policy and guidelines for import, handling, storage, and transportation of coal especially for energy projects.
Until and unless such a binding policy and guidelines are not ready, unsafe dumping and transportation of coal from various spots in the city should be immediately stopped.
Such a policy is urgently needed on mandatory basis as Pakistan is all set to exploit for the very first time its own coal reserves in Thar for power generation.
Speaking at the briefing, environmental consultant Saquib Ejaz Hussain associated with EMC Pakistan, said that there was no way out other than immediately stopping storage and transportation of coal nearby Clifton in order to ensure health and safety of its residents.
He said that continued presence and operation of KPT coal yard nearby Clifton brazenly flouted national and provincial environmental laws and regulations.
He said that unsafe and unchecked storage and transportation of coal from KPT coal yard had been causing irreversible damage to physical environment of adjoining Clifton area as health of its residents would be compromised if this activity further continued.
He said that nearby marine environment and ecology would be seriously harmed if coal dumping, handling, and transportation continued at the site of coal yard near Block 1 and 2 Clifton.
He said recent scientific surveys and analyses had shown that air quality of the Clifton neighborhood adjacent to the coal yard had already been seriously compromised. In some of the instances, the environmental samples of the area had shown that prevalence of hazardous particulate matter had exceeded several times than the permissible limits set by the World Health Organization.
“We simply don’t have any policy or system in place to check what type and standard of coal is being imported in the country as we should inspect each and every consignment of imported coal in order to determine it’s hazardous for the environment,” said Mr Hussain.
He said that in compliance of the court orders, the storage and handling of coal at KPT’s yard near Clifton had been restricted to 200,000 tonnes per annum but rest of the coal was now being stored and handled at 25 other sites within the radius of five to 10 kiliometres of the KPT.
He said that storage and handling of coal at such greater number of sites in the midst of residential localities should be stopped forthwith in order to safeguard health of their residents.
He said that country, while doing a number of coal-based power projects didn’t have any policy to consume and safely dispose of hazardous waste being produced as the result of coal burning.
Veno Advani, concerned environmentalist whose petition on air pollution is at present being heard by Supreme Court, expressed surprise that Pakistan had initiated a number of coal-based power projects when rest of the world had largely been abandoning this energy resource owing to its serious hazardous for the environment.
He said that Pakistan had been relying on Chinese technology, manpower, and expertise for doing coal-based power projects at such a time when China itself had either stopped work altogether or delayed completion of some 104 coal power plants there.
He said it was high time that government should come up with a comprehensive policy and guidelines regarding import, handling, storage, and consumption of coal for energy production. “Once all these coal-based projects will be operational, there would be no turning back as then we will not be able to take any corrective measure to safeguard environment,” he said.
Mr. Advani said that there were some 100 cities around the world whose energy needs to a large extent were met through renewable resources of power as such environmentally safe options should also be utilized for cities like Karachi.
Qazi Ali Athar, an environmental law attorney, said that country should not opt for coal-based power production in order to protect environment.
He said that coal-based power production in Thar would have serious consequences for environment of the entire province.