EPA collecting air, water samples from sugar mills

Samples of air and wastewater belonging to the sugar mills of Sindh are being collected by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials for the last two days to check whether they are polluting environment, especially air and water. One of the sugar mills releases its toxic waste in a waterway that finds its way into the upstream Kotri Barrage. The samples are being taken under the directives of EPA Director-General Abdul Malik Ghauri, who has sent three officials, Ashiq Ali Dhamrah, Jehangir Hussain and Mohammad Hashim. An EPA official from Hyderabad, Irfan Abbasi, and two environmental inspectors from the district concerned are part of the team that is visiting different sugar mills. It was learnt here on Tuesday that the team had so far visited six sugar mills and one alcohol-producing unit. The mills included the Al-Abbas Sugar Mills, Mirpurkhas Sugar Mills, Matiari Sugar Mills, Digri Sugar Mills and Najma Sugar Mills. Their air samples and wastewater samples have been collected. The officials are travelling along with a mobile laboratory that had been gifted to Pakistan by the Japanese government. While confirming that the testing of samples would take some time, Mr Ghauri said: "Some samples are analysed in the mobile laboratory while some are sent to us in Karachi so that they can be tested at the main laboratory.' He said that the samples were being checked so that the sugar mills would improve their environmental standard. An official of the team told Dawn that one of the sugar mills was releasing its wastewater in a waterway that finds its way into the upstream Kotri barrage. A report said that the exercise of testing of air quality has been initiated by EPA in view of the on-going sugarcane season which began in December and would continue for another couple of months. According to environmentalists, smoke emitted from the chimneys of sugar mills pollutes the air and it causes various problems for the people who live in their vicinity. Mr Ghauri said that first air and liquid samples would be analysed and then the sugar mills would be graded. When asked whether any proceedings would follow if the sugar mills were found guilty of environmental pollution, he replied: "Certainly notices will be issued to the relevant sugar mill if the quality of air emission and wastewater don't conform with the National Environmental Quality Standards.' According to water technologist Dr Ahsan Siddiqui, the wastewater of a sugar mill is released on its own open ground by the mills management. He, however, added that the mill in question had no right to do that because wastewater through seepage contaminated water contained in the sub-soil, which is a natural resource of water for people who obtained water through suction pumps.