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Stakeholders unsure about Sepa`s ability to ensure compliance of standards

By Hasan Mansoor 2016-09-23
KARACHI: Many stakeholders attending a public hearing on Thursday expressed doubts about the capacity and authority of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to effectively carry out post-EIA (environmental impact assessment) monitoring of development projects, despite assurances given by its chief.

They said it was dif ficult to believe that the regulatory agency would manage to ensure that public and private organisations complied with the environmental laws and fulfilled the commitments they made before launch of the projects.

Organised by Sepa, the public hearing discussed in detail an EIA report on a coal trans-shipment project at two berths of the Port Qasim Authority (PQA).

The proposed project involves turning, according to the planners, two berths of the PQA into modern coal-handling facilities. After completion of the project, the two berths are proposed to handle about 30,000 tonnes of coal a day.

The project will be developed by the Huaneng Fuyun Port and Shipping(Pvt)Ltd,ajointventure ofHuaneng Shandong Ruyi (Pakistan) Energy (Pvt) Ltd and Qungdao Old Captain Shipping Company Ltd.

The project will be meant to supply coal imported from South Africa to Sahiwal where the Chinese have invested in a coal-fired power plant said to be part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The EIA of the project has been prepared by the Global Environmental Management Services.

Shabbir Anwar Kazi, the PQA`s director general (technical), said his organisation was building an advanced facility at the PQA dedicated to safe coal operations that created minimal environmental hazards.

He said that no project could be launched without approval of Sepa and the project under review would be implemented in such a manner that the environment would largely remain unaffected.

Even though many environmental experts, representatives of civil society and owners of the factories located in the vicinity attended the hearing, none of the people who owned small shops and restaurants expected to be dismantled for the project showed up, perhaps because the event was not widely publicised.

The owners of factories in the areaexpressed concern over the proposed presence of huge facilities dealing with coal in the vicinity which, according to them, could contaminate their products.

They said that with an increasing number of coal facilities being set up at the PQA, the day was not far off when the port would be transformed into a `coal port`.

Industrialists and environmental campaigners also expressed doubts over implementation of the ambitious mitigation measures mentioned in the report, saying that similar promises had been made before launch of previous projects as well.

Mr Kazi said the PQA had five silos which had the capacity to cater to the needs. `We have enough capacity to cater to coal as well as everything that we have been facilitating so far. We are evolving keeping in view the international standards,` he said.

The participants also questioned why the authorities were building a separate facility for handling coal for the CPEC when the Pakistan International Bulk Terminal (PIBT) was already being set up there. The terminal is regarded as the country`s first terminal for coal, clinker and cement.

A representative of the PIBT saidthat like many other stalceholders attending the meeting his organisation too should have been regarded as a stakeholder and consulted. He said the PIBT would have ample capacity to handle the additional coal required for the CPEC project.

A representative of the IUCN wanted to know whether or not the mangrove trees to be uprooted from near the existing railway line would be replanted.

Some participants said that according to some studies, pollution in the area had already touched alarming levels.

Naeem Ahmed Mughal, the director general of Sepa, said that unlike many countries where coal was used extensively for producing electricity Pakistan used less than one per cent of coal in its power plants.

He said there were facilities dealing in coal in the world which had been set up within the communities but these posed no dangers because of modern safety measures.

He said the planners would have to strictly follow the safety design and Sepa would be there to monitor the post-approval environmental situation. He also asked the industry representatives to follow safety standards in order to mitigate environmental hazards in the area.