Lahore: Steel mills fined for using tyres as fuel
LAHORE: The city government’s environment inspectors have issued Environmental Protection Orders (EPOs) to several steel mills in the Shalimar Bagh area for using tyres and coal as fuel amidst the natural gas shortage.
The Express Tribune has learnt that Batala Steel has been fined Rs200,000 and Jabbar Steel and Irfan Steel Rs50,000 each. Environmental Inspector Malik Kamran said that 118 EPOs had been issued to steel mills by the city government over the last year. Not all of these were for burning tyres or coal.
EPOs are served by the city government inspectors and then heard by a tribunal of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Kamran said that using tyres and coal as fuel was very damaging to the environment. He said the polluting steel mills had affected air quality in neighbourhoods around Shalimar Bagh, where an increasing number of residents were suffering from lung problems.
An EPA air quality expert said that this was a major economic issue as well as an environmental one. “EPOs must be enforced,” he said. “People say the steel mill owners are contributing to the economy, but burning tyres creates a greater economic loss through damage to the environment.” He added that burning coal was less damaging to the environment than tyres.
Officials in the city government’s environment department complain that the owners of these steel mills have connections with members of the ruling party in the Punjab, and felt that they could ignore notices.
The inspectors can also seal plants which are emitting dangerous pollution. “They threaten us if we try to seal the factories,” said Malik.
City government sources said that another tactic mills used to try and avoid punishments was to change the name of the owner on the title deed after an EPO was issued, making enforcement difficult.
Asked about the crackdown on polluting plants, the Steel Mills Union said it would take up the issue with the Punjab government.
“The Punjab government is our friend. We intend to sit down with Mian Saab to voice our grievances,” said Sikander Gujjar of the union.