Meeting Chair: Hon’ble Ms. Munaza Hassan
Meeting Venue: Committee Room no. 7, Parliament House
Meeting Time: 11:00AM – 2:00PM
The meeting began with the confirmation of the previous meeting minutes. The Chair Standing Committee on Climate Change directed that the recommendations shall be taken after the meeting. The new Secretary Ministry of Climate Change Capt. (RETD) Sikandar Qayyum assured the committee that Ministry will be forthcoming with respect to the needs of all relevant departments. The Chair iterated that we have concluded several of multilateral climate related agreements, and she pointed out that no rules have been made thus far regarding all these international conventions ratified by Pakistan. She stressed that owing to the lack of rules the functionality of both, the Ministry and the Committee is hampered. The Ministry is directed to give a timeline for the formation of the rules. The Secretary said that all the relevant rules shall be formulated after determining the mandate of the Climate Ministry. MNA Rai Murtza talked about the discussions organized by the committee and the inclusion of pool of experts. The Chair seconded him by introducing the knowledge hub to the new secretary. She explained that knowledge hub constitutes of experts, academia and think tanks and thus ministry should take them into the fold when making the new rules as climate change is the top priority on global scale. She encouraged the ministry to follow suit and give the experts a say in formulating the rules. MNA Tahir Sadiq talked about the fact that the funding received from foreign countries is not utilized properly and is heavily subjected to corruption. He highlighted the utilization of government money for lavish expenditures at the travel and residence of officials for visits. He suggested a third-party audit of the TBTTP and disclosed statistics of alleged funds mismanagement. He complained to the chair that the irregularities must be inquired about, suggesting Minister Zartaj Gul that a letter be written to the Prime Minister regarding these incidents.
The Chair took TTBTP into account and said that let it be a part of the agenda. MNA Romina Khurshid Alam stated that Minister Zartaj Gul was actively participating at the COP26 event. She said that the representation of Pakistan was not satisfactory at the pavilion. The pavilion was not well-organized; there was hassle and a lack of interaction on part of host staff, all the other pavilions were well-organized. She asked about the number of people who went by the approval of Prime Minister, what financial heads were utilized and whether a breakup of the budget can be provided. Ms. Romina said that she looked forward to the Chair to fulfill her role and ensure accountability of the finances. The Chair explained that she was invited by the House of Commons as a keynote speaker and therefore did not utilize the funding of either the ministry or the committee. UNFCC has taken the Asia region as a test case and House of Common invited the chair to present the unique case of climate change committee and its interactive knowledge hub as a prime example. She explained that she was the only keynote speaker from the region, and two of only women speakers among the eight keynote speakers from the world. She showed complete faith in her committee and acknowledged the vigilance of the committee members in taking up the issues of importance. She asked the members to submit their reports to the committee regarding their concerns so they can be taken under consideration; she said that Prime Minister encourages austerity since the inception of this government and therefore, it would be our key focus area to redirect the flow of investment and cut back on redundant official expenses. She said that every sitting member from the Pakistani delegations was representing Pakistan, and therefore committee will strictly look into it. The Chair encouraged the ministry to respond to the reservations of Mr. Tahir regarding TBTTP, and she showed her concern regarding the integrity of the TBTTP. She said that TBTTP is subject to major scrutiny due to the international attention received by this unique program, therefore the ministry must deliberate on the issue and submit a report to the committee answering the concerns of the committee members. Ms. Zahra Wadood also urged the chair to direct the ministry to give all the expenses. Mr. Tahir urged the committee chair to strictly direct the detailed breakdown of expenses again. Minister Zartaj said that the response from the ministry will be given after conducting a thorough inquiry. She pointed out her commitment to the cause by saying that she never skipped a committee meeting, she stressed that the inquiry will be conducted to kill the rumors. She said she is not aware of the number or name of people selected for the delegation; she thanked the Prime Minister for giving her the opportunity to represent Pakistan at COP26. Secretary will provide a list of the name of delegates signed by the Prime Minister office. She said that youth and delegates showed a lot of interest in the pavilion. She talked about her discourse to Glasgow pointing out the success of flagship program TBTTP, she said that ministry has worked a lot for biodiversity, green cover and climate change. She said that she is never quiet in the face of corruption and she always has a dissenting note for such occurrences; she iterated that she can produce her record of official travel since she has taken up the office. She said she has never used the TADA except for two tickets to Karachi. She said that TBTTP’s funding is coming from Pakistan’s own money i.e., PSDP. She said that the committee is aware that we are not permitted to travel first class, and austerity has always been the mandate of this government. She stressed that experts must be sent to such events, as it would help build their capacity to run the Ministry of Climate Change in an efficient manner. She said that Ministry is ready for the audit and ensured that Ministry did its best to ensure Pakistan is well-represented at COP26.
Mr. Tahir said that the Islamabad High Court said that SAPM cannot exercise administrative powers and that these powers must be exercised by the Minister herself, and not the SAPM. He said that not taking action in such circumstances makes the Minister liable to perpetrating in such illegal acts. The Chair ensured the committee members that inquiry shall be conducted and complete transparency will be observed while looking into this matter.
Mr. Ali Gohar Khan raised concerns about the deteriorating condition of the land due to increase in building societies and residential occupation of the land. The lack of the initial planning has led to serious troubles in current times. The lack of demarcation of land for the sake of maintaining the green cover/forest areas has been the major culprit behind the diminishing environment. Because of the new construction in the expanding sub-rubs of ICT, the climate has taken a hit. He said that even the existing the housing societies can be directed to make sure that construction of such societies does not take a toll on the environment. He then introduced his amendment in The Pakistan Environment Protection Bill, 2021 that suggests addition of a section 2(A) increasing the government’s control and mandate on the expansion of green coverage of the land.
Ms. Zahra Wadood lamented over the fact that Bani Gala is no longer the green area it used to be, the construction is rampant and no proper system of sanitation in the area, the streets are getting narrower and overpopulation is damaging the ICT and its suburbs greatly. She highlighted that committee has been actively involved with CDA and other relevant departments, and land demarcation was always encouraged by the committee. EPA was directed to take action against Monal on the directive of the committee. The Chair showed her displeasure that Ministry of Law was not represented at the meeting, despite a new bill being on the agenda. Mr. Ali Gohar added that in provincial climate laws there is a proper specification of the area, ensuring that no green zone is destroyed as a result of housing society construction. The by-law standards are easy to fulfill in ICT, thereby making it easy for realtors to increase the housing societies. Madam Minister added that she directed the bill be sent to committee when it came up in house, because she believed collective measure with provinces would be a great initiative. She mentioned the T12 bill and suggested that they collectively work on both bills taking the provincial assemblies in fold.
Ms. Mussarat asked Madam Chair about her insights from COP26, highlighting that smog is persistent and air pollution is a major hazard in the current times. The Chair responded that our carbon footprint is low as far as Pakistan is concerned, pointing out that major contributors are making pledges to the reduction of GHG emissions. However talking big and doing nothing has now become a global culture when it comes to climate change. She said that she spoke at the Cop26 about the fact that despite negligent contributions, we are largely impacted by climate change. She said that the committee can be briefed in a presentation about what happened at COP26.
Ms. Zahra Wadood pointed out that in ICT the industrial areas are dangerously close to residential areas. The Chair suggested that all the questions be directed to EPA and recommended the commencement of EPA presentation.
Misbah ul Haq Khan Lodhi Deputy Director Punjab was present. The Chair denied him audience because she directed the presence of Secretary of the Environment Department of Punjab; she showed her displeasure at their absence. She said no one below grade 20/21 is allowed to attend the meeting. She said that the notice was sent by 22nd November, people are suffering due to the air quality and yet the department is not concerned enough to take any precautions or show up at the meeting. She said that the steel rolling mills operating at the night and that the negligence of environment department is causing a strain on the resources of health department.
MNA Ms. Mussarat added that she saw huge fires on her way to Islamabad, pointing out that kilns are still operating and there is no real effort on part of either government or civil society. The chair lamented over the fact that crop-burning has led to accidents in the past, and Sialkot-Daska belt is especially vulnerable due to the burning of rice crops. Ms. Mussarat added that factories near Shahdara that burn furnace oil and rubber tires contribute to the smog.
EPA explained that it was established under section 6 of the Pakistan Environment Protection Ordinance 1983, superseded by the PEPA Act, 1997. The DG Ms. Farzana Altaf started with the Organogram as she explained the working strength of the agency. She said that total allocated strength is 62, and currently working employees are 46. Ms. Tahira Aurangzeb stated that EPA is quiet about the air ambience and quality details for the past week and there are no updated. The DG said presently EPA is working with strength of 7 officers. There is only one guard who is also the gardener. And supporting staff is 38 in number. She said that most of the clerical staff is on shared basis, pointing that this staff includes computer programmers, lab assistant, four stenographers, librarian, sweepers, drivers etc. The same supporting staff is taken to the field for any inquiries. The Chair inquired the duties of this staff. She said that most of the office employees are hired, however, the agency lacks experts and therefore there isn’t any considerable work being done at the EPA’s vicinity. She pointed out the empty posts from the organogram. The DG said that MS Wing or FPSC can mandate the rules for the hiring of the new grade 17 posts created by Madam DG. The Secretary added that the same point was raised in his first meeting with EPA staff as he took charge; he said he made the commitment to the DG that the delayed hiring is actively pursued. They added that the hiring is not exclusive to the ministries mandate and the element of dependency on other departments is leading to the lag.
The DG sought permission from the committee that in interim, experts can be hired on contract. The DG added that she wrote letters to FPSC about the ad hoc hiring, yet they didn’t permit because such permission would otherwise indicate the lag on behalf of the FPSC. The Secretary pointed out that this process will take a year at minimum, and therefore committee permits interim contract hires in the meanwhile. The Chair suggested that a few posts on the base of priority must be filled, Mr. Tahir pointed out that a letter in 2017 does not justify not approaching FPSC over the course of past five years. The Chair seconded it. The DG added that she has filled three major posts since. Ms. Tahira Aurangzeb added that the DG is worried herself because her own domicile case is in the court. The DG responded by reassuring that she has received valid court judgment that nullified the claims made on part of the validity of her domicile.
The Chair added that the DG should have pursued the matter more diligently. To which the DG responded that while the posts aren’t filled, she has raised a case for deputation from other departments. The Chair said that she is not on board with the idea. She asked which department can provide Air and Water Quality Chemists to the agency and whether such experts are redundant in their own departments. She added that there are many experts in the country; EPA just needs to engage them and create jobs. The monopolistic approach of the department must be put to an end. The Secretary again requested that committee encourages ad hoc basis hiring for efficient running of the EPA.
The DG continued that with this strength, they have three directorates. There is a LAB & NEQS, EIA & Monitoring, Admin & Finance Legal & Enforcement Directorate, and National Biosafety Center. Each having 2 officers with the last one having one post on contract basis. She said that when MS wing was pursued for hiring rules for certain posts, they weren’t allowed and the National Biosafety Center remains unattended.
The DG directly jumped to constraints faced by the EPA. She talked about the limited HR, pointing out that CDA has 2500 people in their environment wing and police also has ample strength whereas in comparison EPA has negligible HR. She demanded the capacity building of her department. The DG was asked about the increased budget proposal. She said that last year she sought 96 million and was granted 46 million. She said that budget is secondary; the agency’s main need is the HR. She said that the same number of people are juggling between several tasks. The Secretary said that lower budgetary allocation is a norm for every department, and therefore that is a separate issue. He apologized and added that HR is a problem that cannot be ignored and it shall be addressed ASAP. He added that no one holds exclusive powers and departments must come together to bring solutions.
The DG then talked about the lack of legal consultancy, she added that EPA does not have a strong legal department and sought this support. She added that because of a grant of the ministry from last year, EPA finally has its own field monitoring car.
The Chair asked about the PC4 post that is still vacant. The Secretary explained the process of PC4 post creation procedure to the Chair. The DG then explained that despite the demanded posts under another PC4 they sought 25 HR out of 100, and yet were given 9. She said that they are never given enough HR, and therefore the relevant departments are not run effectively. Mr. Tahir asked how long has it been since the last PC4. The DG said it’s been a year; the projects are disrupted and discontinued owing to the lack of hiring. The Chair lamented that HR is a major source of strength for us, and yet the projects go to waste because of not creating enough jobs. The committee recommended that these departments be expedited to sort out this matter ASAP. And the status of under-process programs must be presented.
The DG went to the new construction site in F-10 that is not mandated. She said she single-handedly sealed the site as it was in violation of the law. The Chair asked about the procedure in this circumstance and the Minister iterated that EPA can conduct inspection but in the presence of administration department. The Minister pointed out that implementation of the regulations is not the mandate of the DG. The Chair said that for the lack of assistance to the regulatory bodies, Ministry shall be held accountable first.
The DG was asked about the presence of administration during the BHU Sohan and Savour Foods visit. The Chair said that relevant committees be sent the letter. The DG explained that they need HR at beck and call because the complains and cases coming to the EPA are immediate. The Chair asked the DG whether the administration is timely informed about their need at the site.
The Chair stressed that there must be a procedure, mechanism and timeframe according to which the administration is supposed to respond and EPA needs to work it out. Mr. Tahir suggested that permanent HR be provided to EPA so they have administrative source whenever they need. The Chair urged that Ministry makes the mechanism and Ms. Tahira highlighted that WhatsApp groups are not a legitimate means of communication between EPA, Ministry and Administration.
The DG said, back in 2018 the Supreme Court ordered permanent allocation of police to the EPA. The Advocate General implemented those orders for the time being however later the resources were withdrawn.
Talking about the Air Quality, DG said that report is not available because of some technical issue with the data analyzers, the engineers tried fixing it but the EPA has just one monitoring station. The Chair asked about the lack of procurements under the TBTTP funding. The Minister said that the department explained finances to her as if they were barely enough to run EPA even though that was not the case. The Minister explained that DG hasn’t been actively contributing to any projects. The DG then explained the entire plan of installing four new monitoring stations in Islamabad. The Chair pointed out that the monitoring station is not exactly installed in a place vulnerable to bad air quality, iterating that the data procured is biased. The DG then clarified that the monitoring station is in fact installed in H-8/2, near to industrial area and thus gives an accurate picture of Islamabad’s air quality.
The DG then explained the budget of EPA. She added that 50 million releases are granted for capacity building. The Chair asked about the budgeting at maintenance of laboratories. The DG mentioned that no separate funding was given to EPA. The Chair recommended that the budget needs to be increased for EPA. Madam Minister said that she has time and again encouraged EPA to come up with new projects. The Minister added that if the EPA asks for a specific budget, it is sure to be granted but the EPA has rarely ever asked.
Madam Chair pointed that by no means the plantation justifies the damage done by emissions and therefore, both of these initiative need to be taken parallel under the umbrella of both Ministry and Committee. The Chair directed the Ministry to help EPA get necessary approvals, budget and capacity as soon as possible. The Chair stressed that vehicular emissions testing system must be available in Islamabad; if this is not taken into account in a timely manner the results will be disastrous. The Secretary ensured that it will be taken up.
The DG pointed out that the EIA budget and IEE budget is essentially zero. They are not given enough budgets to conduct any of these assessments. The Minister interjected that after the SRO of plastic bags ban; the courts in Punjab directed that the fine from plastic bag fines goes to the provincial Environment department. Minister encouraged the EPA to follow suit in the footsteps of Punjab government. The DG then talked about the performance of EPA and collection of air ambience data. She mentioned that in 2017, through mobile data collection unit, EPA collected air quality data for 30 days. She mentioned that all the industrial units have now filteres installed ensuring there aren’t any industrial emissions in ICT. She said there have been zero emissions since. She was asked about the further monitoring of the same industries, and whether the EPA is certain that none of these industries are abiding by the environmental standards set by EPA. The Chair stressed that EPA must make sure that these industries are in fact monitored. The DG requested the committee to visit the sites.
The Chair stressed that the agency is only monitoring for approx. 8 hours through live cameras as explained by the DG, the rest of the hours are not monitored. The DG insisted that the live cameras keep a record for up to 20 hours. The social media update of air quality was inquired about by the chair, EPA representative explained mentioning the air quality data.
The Chair asked about the last tweet on the air quality. It was made on 28th November. The last update was on 18th November. The DG then briefed about the international standards of air quality. She explained why owing to the varying quality of the climate in Pakistan, the suspended particulate matters increase. The Chair asked if our air quality meets the standards. She then mentioned the average of our country, she said that our PM2.5 average has not crossed three figures. The DG explained that PM2.5 is caused by construction activities and other causes that increase dust. Dry days and lower wind speed is a driving factor behind the increased PM2.5.
Now EPA has introduced the live camera monitoring for the steel industries installation pollution control technology. The water quality monitoring by the EPA was done recently at all the filters. The chair asked about the labs and results the DG then told the committee that in case of bad water quality CDA is intimated. The chair asked about the 83 samples results. And the DG said 52 were compliant. The chair said these matters cannot be discussed in detail. The chair then mentioned a public petition by Muhammad Ramzan. He said he has a 4 marla plot. There was a project in Mangu Town Bahra Kahu he was sent a notice to of . The DG said that the house is being constructed on sewrage beside the house that was intended to be encroached in the process. The Chair asked the committee whether they have sent the notice without seeing the situation. The case is of a personal vendetta and EPA’s notice is not justified and the Chair shall take notice to the nuisance caused to public. The Chair directed the matter to be resolved immediately
The chair then ended the meeting by saying it shall be continued from the water assessment report. The Chair asked the secretary to take into account the Working Progress of EPA for further discussion