Public Hearing of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency on Coal Transhipment Project at Port Qasim

Karachi, September 22, 2016 (PPI-OT):The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has asked the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) in Karachi to immediately stop the current system of handling of the imported coal at a number of locations at the port in a highly unregulated and scattered manner terming such a practice an illegal activity causing serious damage to environment.

“Stop such activity with immediate effect, which is being carried out without any environmental impact assessment as it is causing damage to the environment,” said Director-General of SEPA Naeem Ahmed Mughal at a public hearing held here on Thursday.

The public hearing held on the report submitted to SEPA on environmental impact assessment of the proposed coal transhipment project at berth no 03 and 04 of Port Qasim for onward coal supply through railway line all the way towards 2×660 MWs coal-fired power plants at Sahiwal as being part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

The concerned industrialists, businessmen, environmentalists, and social activists who attended the hearing expressed serious reservations over the plan to build a new coal handling facility at Port Qasim amid a number of coal-based projects already being built at the port area.

The concerned participants among audience of the hearing said that existing import and industrial operations related to oil, food, pharmaceutical, automotive and other industries at Port Qasim area would be adversely affected due to environment of the port area getting degraded due to bulk import, storage, and shipment of coal.

The concerned members of Bin Qasim Association of Trade and Industry (BQATI) who attended the hearing said that there was no need to build a new jetty to handle imported coal in huge quantity up to 08 million tonnes when a jetty of Pakistan Steel Mills were present idle in the same area.

Mr. Mughal, who chaired the hearing, said in his concluding remarks that local importers and handlers of coal had shifted their unregulated activities from Karachi Port Trust and surrounding areas to Port Qasim after judiciary and SEPA had stepped into the matter for cause of environment and health of people in KPT and surrounding localities.

The SEPA chief, however, said that in a recent visit of Port Qasim area, he had personally verified the situation that the same unregulated activity of handling and storage of imported coal under open sky was being going on there without any check as the importers deemed that at Port Qasim they would continue with complete impunity their unchecked import and shipment operations.

He asked the PQA to conduct a cumulative environmental impact assessment of the entire port and surrounding areas to determine possible change in environment and ecology of the port, industrial, and coastal areas in view of a number of coal-based energy, import, storage, and handling projects being simultaneously emerging at Port Qasim area.

He also assured concerned audience of the hearing that environmental laws and regulations would be duly implemented along with their provisions for penalty for violating the law on all coal-based energy and other projects being constructed at Port Qasim area.

He said that no government authority could go for such a harsh decision to ban altogether import of coal into the country owing to environmental concerns as a number of industrial operations would be affected while the country had also to improve its current ratio of energy mix as coal-based electricity production accounted for only one per cent of total energy produced in Pakistan.

Mr. Mughal said that he had witnessed handling, storage, and shipment projects for coal import at a number of ports in developed countries as in several such instances jetties for unloading coal from cargo ships were located in midst of residential areas.

Regarding the proposed coal transhipment project being built at Port Qasim area, he said that reports and documents related to the upcoming project didn’t provide any detail regarding employment opportunities it would produce, about estimated cost of the project, and any firm alternative plan to relocate small businesses that would be affected due to the project.

In view of the serious concerns of the industrialists belonging to Port Qasim industrial area, the SEPA chief said he would make sure that progress on the coal transhipment project would only be made once there would be meaningful consultation with all the concerned stakeholders that would lead to building a monitoring mechanism to verify that all due mitigation measures were being duly observed to safeguard environment of the project’s site and surrounding areas.

Director General (Technical) of PQA Shabbir Anwar Qazi said that Port Qasim would go for building a dedicated terminal for handling and shipment of imported coal by next year so that other import operations at PQA related to important commodities could not be effected. He said the PQA had taken into account all regular industrial, import, and shipment activities being taken place at Port Qasim and surrounding areas while granting permission for new coal-based projects for fulfilling energy requirements of the country.

Mian Muhammad Ahmed, president of BQATI, and Amin Ali Dawood, another office-bearer of the concerned trade association, said that given the fast pace, which was being adopted to conceive and implement new coal-based projects at Port Qasim areas ultimately they would be left with no option but to shut down their industries as foreign importers of their products would develop concerns over quality of environment being observed at their industrial units.

Ather Ali Khan Durrani, of Landhi Association of Trade and Industry, said the new coal transhipment project at Port Qasim should contain provision of water treatment facility for safeguarding marine and plant ecology of the coastal area.

Roland deSouza, associated with the NGO Shehri Citizens for Better Environment, said that SEPA utterly didn’t have qualified manpower in the requisite number to monitor that due mitigation measures were being duly implemented by proponents of major development projects in the city.

He said the manner the Green Line portion of Bus Rapid Transit Service was being constructed in the city had shown well that no care at all was being observed to safeguard environment while building the first mass transit project in Karachi.

Naeem Qureshi, of National Forum of Environment and Health, said that new coal handling project should not be implemented till such time when clear-cut mechanisms were made for proper monitoring of the project for safeguarding environment while duly involving the concerned business and industrial stakeholders of the area.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Syed Muhammad Yahya
Deputy Director (Lab)
Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)
EPA-Complex, Plot # ST-2/1,
Sector # 23, Korangi Industrial Area,
Phone: +92-21-5065946
Fax: +92-21-5065940