PESHAWAR: Large amounts of smoke from steel mills near residential areas have polluted the environment and are causing health complications in tehsil Bara, Khyber district, but even after the merger of tribal districts with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the government has not yet implemented the environmental protection laws.

Bara residents added that no smoke filters have been installed in these factories. In an interview with Mashaal Radio, they demanded the government to relocate the factories from residential areas.

Gul Nazir Afridi, a local civil society activist, said that pollution from steel mills in Bara is increasing day by day, with no environmental protection laws in place. “At least 70,000 people were affected in Bara Bazaar, Shlobar and Akakhel area,” Afridi said. He added that schools, houses and markets were covered in smoke and dust where it burns people’s eyes and makes their throats bitter.

Zahidullah Afridi, head of the Bara Youth Organization, said: “It is very dangerous for public health. The whole area is covered in black smoke.” Zahidullah informed that even people’s clothes, utensils and drinking water are not safe from the pollution.

But Haroon Afridi, CEO of a steel mill in Bara, said similar factories were operating in Islamabad and other cities. He said that they are enforcing the laws of the provincial Environmental Protection Agency. Speaking to Mashaal Radio, Haroon said that they have laid off many people in these factories and pay taxes to the government.

When contacted Bashir Khan, Director General of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection Agency said that after the merger of the tribal district with the province, the agency has directed all factory owners to use the latest technology to reduce and reduce smoke. Bashir Khan said he had sent notices to some factories that the latest technology would be installed in all factories in a month and a half so that the smoke is filtered and reduced.

By one estimate, there are currently more than 20 steel mills operating in the Khyber District. Locals say the same laws that apply in settled districts should be applied to these factories as well. In this connection, two factories are active in Hayatabad Industrial Estate. These factories manufacture steel, check boards, tissue paper, oil, cooking oil, marble, furniture, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other items.

The article first appeared in Mashaal Radio and written by Farhad Shinwari.

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