February 15th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Dust emissions from soybean and pet coke pose a threat to the urban population living near Karachi’s port area, the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said in a report on last year’s deaths from gas leakage in Kemari.
On February 10th, the agency presented its report to the Sindh High Court over the February 16 incident last year in which 10 people died and 300 people were hospitalized. The agency visited various affected areas including Railway Colony, Bhutta Goth, Jackson, Massan, Shireen Jinnah Colony. Karachi Port Trust, South Asia Pakistan Terminal, Karachi International Terminal, and Oil Installation area located at Kemari in the vicinity of Karachi Port Trust.
The SEPA report stated that the data on air quality of entire area of incident was measured and found detrimental to human health due to contaminated air quality, adding that when the SEPA team visited the port a day after the incident, the soybean and pet-coke ‘were being unloaded in open air at berth without standard operating procedure (SOP) in absence of any monitoring system for the continuous monitoring of the ambient air at the KPT premises and its adjacent areas’.
The agency found that the parameters of carbon monoxide, particulate matters (PM2s) were exceeding the prescribed parameters of the Sindh Environmental Quality Standards (SEQS).
Besides the dust emissions from soybean and pet-coke, the agency paints a dismal picture of environmental safety at the port area. “During a visit at KPT several containers loaded with hazardous chemicals were also stored since last three to four years unclaimed by consignees as informed by the management of the KPT,” the report reads.
The agency found the surrounding area of the oil terminal untidy and highly polluted with waste generated from oil tankers. The SEPA report warned that oil supply pipelines of different oil companies and refineries were highly risky areas and it may cause mishaps or incidents in the future.
In its recommendations, The SEPA called for KPT to handle soybean and pet-coke only under strict international standards and regulations at specified places, as handling of soybean/pet-coke without strict measures with cause adverse effects to human health and the environment.
The agency said oil companies in port areas should take measures to monitor volatile organic compounds on regular basis and share reports with the agency. The KPT’s Marine Pollution Board should prevent and control the ambient air quality of the port premises and surrounding areas.
Similarly, the oil installation area was highly prone to any disaster therefore all companies operating in the oil and other storage must apply international health safety environment codes. The agency also sought direction from the court that the KPT must submit a plan to carry out ambient air quality monitoring and also install an air quality monitoring station on a permanent basis.
The Sindh High Court has directed the Keamari SSP to take action in the case in the light of the SEPPA’s report, observing that the police seemed to have been negligent in pursuing the case. The court adjourned the hearing until March 16.