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Please clean me!

Till the turn of the century, the Industrial sector of Pakistan had largely employed a good riddance, not my problem approach to disposing off industrial byproducts, especially untreated waste water. Rivers such as the Rohi nullah near Kasur had turned into chemical cesspools, containing extremely high levels of Chromium and other toxic substances used in leather processing. It wouldnt be a surprise if such discharges of effluent have spawned new and mutated species of life forms imagine fish walking on land and venting their revenge. Official initiatives such as the Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance along with the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) had been promulgated in 1983. However, it took a good ten to fifteen years for any sort of practical implementation of its policies and reforms. The environmental hazards that have been emerging since the advent of international industrialization trends had not been weighing upon the conscience of the investors and participatory governments. It was only with the campaigning efforts of organizations such as Green Peace along with public awareness that legislation was introduced in international trade agreements and adopted by the WTO. In our case, it has been the threat of restricting imports from Pakistan by International Brands such as Levis and Calvin Klein that has prompted local textile manufacturers to incorporate environmental and labor friendly reforms comments Adnan Iqbal, marketing head Paramount Spinning Mills Limited. Adnan has been involved in marketing readymade apparel for the past several years and has been in direct contact with international buyers. These companies send their own team of specialists and engineers who monitor our entire manufacturing process and ensure that waste management regulations are being followed to the hilt, Adnan further points out. Azher Uddin Khan, who is currently the Managing Director of National Environmental Consulting, has been involved with projects regarding the implementation of Cleaner Production technologies in major industrial sectors. The Environmental Technology Program for Industry (ETPI) was conceived and implemented in the later half of the nineties. It focused on advocating a structural shift from end-of-pipe waste treatment technology towards radical design changes at the manufacturing stage, thus minimizing waste production. With regards to end-of-pipe treatment, the typical option is of treating industrial sewage water through pH level neutralization, de-ionizing and removal of toxic metallic and organic compounds. However, with Cleaner Production techniques, it is possible to implement prevention of waste production at source. This can be achieved by more energy, skilled and conscientious labor force and improved means of recovery and reuse of raw materials and water resource management. Though our program was successful in impressing upon a number of industrial units such as in the chemical and sugar mills to adopt Cleaner Production solutions, the time frame was only from 1996 to 2001-02. We passed on our research and proposals to the

governmental regulatory departments but sadly the incumbents did not follow up and advance the ETPI initiative. The outcome of ETPI is deplorable, even though it was a joint project of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and the Government of The Netherlands. Azher further claims that private companies such as Engro Chemical though are in direct contact with consulting firms such as NEC and are continuously exploring various Clean Production alternatives to conventional processes. A vase in point is of Shakarganj Mills Limited located in Jhang in the central Punjab. As their primary product is refined cane sugar, the waste materials such as molasses and water are generally discharge in containment ponds. However, the treatment and recovery of water for recycling was being hampered by fly ash and oil residues on the surface. ETPI conducted an environmental audit and ascertained that excessive wastage was occurring due to labor and manufacturing inefficiency. It then proposed Cleaner Production solutions that would achieve similar results and legislative compliance to an en-of-pipe water treatment plant. And the CP recommendations came at a much lower price tag too, that of $50,000 - $70,000 as compared to a hefty $1.25 million for an effluent treatment facility. Much of the recommendations involved segregating various components of the waste output such as mud, oil and water through improved filter and skimmer designs as well as routine maintenance of pumps, pipes conveyors and other vessels. The problem of voluminous amounts of liquid waste being produced is compounded by the over usage and water in washing and cleaning the materials such as in the textile industries. The company that I work for now has very technologically advanced machines for say, the stone-washing of denim apparel. They make use of a precise recipe of inputs such as water and energy to optimize performance and minimize wastage, explains Adnan Iqbal. However, the firm US apparel in which I was previously employed, had a water treatment plant. But it was only operated in the instance of a visit from the foreign agencies as it cost them something about Rs 25,000 daily to run. The problem of releasing massive amounts of untreated industrial waste into the ecosystem is mostly of the lack of awareness and shortsightedness. The government has turned an absolute blind eye to monitoring the impact of environmental hazards. An so it is only through the hidden blessings of our companies competing for a share in the international market that our ailing environment can be saved from complete and utter disaster.