Rapid Industrialization: an answer to our dreams or an environmental disaster in the making?

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Indiscriminate discharge of industrial effluents and air emissions have contaminated ground and surface water, degraded land and air quality and affected flora/fauna and human health By Fareeha Qayoom

Indiscriminate discharge of industrial effluents and air emissions have contaminated ground and surface water, degraded land and air quality and affected flora/fauna and human health

By Fareeha Qayoom


he world is moving towards sustainable design. Eco-friendly ‘green’ building movement is the hot new trend globally. Pakistan, as usual, is way behind. It will take us another thirty years to catch up. Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment by:

• Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources

• Protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity

• Reducing waste, pollution and environment degradation

open drains

Pollution is one of the major issues facing cities like Karachi and Lahore. Rapid industrialization is aggravating this problem – we are not only creating air, water and soil pollution in the industrial areas, we are actively creating a hazardous environment by converting green areas surrounding our cities like agricultural land, orchards and forests to residential, commercial or industrial areas. “The country is facing serious environmental and human health problems due to industrial pollution, stemming from poor planning, environmental awareness and inadequate pollution control facilities. Deforestation resulting in soil erosion, desertification and flooding has caused considerable damage to our eco-system.  Indiscriminate discharge of industrial effluents and air emissions have contaminated ground and surface water, degraded land and air quality, and affected flora/fauna and human health,” says a study conducted by Ministry of Industries and Production, Government of Pakistan.

Agriculture is still the single largest sector of the national economy according to the economic survey of Pakistan 2006-07. Unfortunately, we are still not doing anything about mapping the most fertile areas of Pakistan and safeguarding them against industrialization or urbanization by creating ‘Agricultural Parks,’ or agricultural zones, like ‘Industrial Parks,’ or ‘Auto Parks’, or ‘IT Parks,’ are being created under the newly formed organization National Industrial Parks Development and Management Company (NIP), Government of Pakistan. NIP, based on the modern concept of industrialization now in vogue in the developed countries of the world, has been launched as public-private partnership, to accelerate focused industrial growth in Pakistan by developing world class industrial parks in the country. Why can’t we create a public/private sector partnership to promote agriculture, the mainstay of our economy and an environmental and economic necessity to off-set the environmental hazards of rapid industrialization?

Not only do we require green areas to grow more food, we need them for cleaner air and to prevent desertification of our soils. According to the National Environment Policy 2005, it is obligatory on the government “to ensure protection and preservation of prime agricultural land from conversion for other uses through introducing land use planning and zoning.”

Mohsin Syed, the regional director of NIP agrees with the basic concept of creating special agricultural parks under state control. “Crops should be protected by state,” he says. “The state should work on increasing agricultural production. How do you do this? By providing the best seeds, pesticides and soils to your farmers, you can introduce cost effective measures like aerial spraying pesticides, you can spray 100 acres in three days via aerial spraying while it takes a tractor seven days to do the same area. A plane flies five feet over the land so aerial spraying is not hazardous to human health,” he declares.

Mohsin Syed in his capacity as the chairman Punjab Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (PIEDMC) defends his role in the selection of Industrial Park sites in Punjab, verifying extreme care was taken to protect prime agricultural land. “All industrial parks, including Sunder Industrial Estate (SIE) are located on barren tracts of land,” he confirms. “I personally made sure the site selected for SIE was not cultivated for over 60 years at least and was not farmland originally, the landowners were very happy to get rid of their unproductive land,” he says. Reminiscing, he recalls, “We flew in circles over Multan Road, the railway line and the dry port, Jehangir Tareen and a group of industrialists flew in with me. The site had to be accessible by road and train track, we acquired the land for one hundred thousand per acre, ended up paying them three hundred thousand per acre and were able to build immediately. Now the value of that land is PKR 7, 000,000, (70 lakh) per acre. It took only a day and a hundred thousand to fly and select a site for SIE. Taking an aerial survey of land is cheaper and more cost effective in the long run,” he remarks.

Plans are near completion to construct an Auto Cluster Industrial Park at Lahore-Sheikhupura Road creating manufacturing, assembling and warehousing facilities under NIP, “it’s ready for launch. The minister for industry will do the official launch. We have completed this project in 18 months. Bookings have already started,” he says. “We flew over various locations like Nankana Sahib, Sharkpur,  Sheikhupura/Faisalabad interchange and Kala Shah Kaku to select a site. For Gujrat industrial estate, we took two days to fly over 200 acres, there was the Nazim, the DCO and myself, they had been looking for a suitable site for eight years, it took us two days only,” he says smilingly.

The PIEDMC has been set up by the government as a public/private sector partnership model to develop modern industrial estates and to upgrade the existing ones for speedy industrialization in the Punjab. PIEDMC with its non-profit organization status offers a one stop solution. The facilities at SIE include, concrete roads, underground electricity distribution, gas, water, telecommunications, estate owned power generation and distribution system, civic centers like post office, sports/recreational facilities, banking and food courts for the workers, fire station and fire hydrants, hospital and emergency medical services, petrol pumps, warehousing, weight station, technical training facilities, combined effluent treatment plant, solid waste management, public transport, and mosque to name a few of them. “PIEDMC is constructing a combined effluent treatment plant (CETP) at the cost of 70 crores (700 million) at SIE. The final capacity of the treatment plant is estimated to be 150,000m3/day. The construction work of CETP should start within the next six months and the project will be in operation in the first quarter of 2010. The plant will be the first of its kind in an industrial park in Pakistan. Plans are also underway for 225 megawatt power project,” he asserts.

Popular opinion holds that industrial zones should be in the outer limits of the city. “Not necessarily. You can’t keep throwing out industry from the main urban areas due to rapid urbanization,” he says. “Look at LA, California’s comprehensive city plans. Industrial zones exist side by side with commercial and residential zones. The solution is to have proactive city planning. We should have a city master plan. Town planners need to be actively engaged in the development of urbanization in major cities of Pakistan. Take for example, Islamabad, a Greek firm Doxivus was engaged in the 60’s to plan the city. They designed a green area, a residential area and an industrial area. Things were allowed to deteriorate over the years. Unfortunately, the town planners didn’t have the necessary expertise to check this decline. Kamran Lashari, the chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA) wants to redo Islamabad again and asked for my help. The important thing is to ask for help, only then can the private sector step in to lend a hand,” he explains. “It’s a system failure across the country at all levels; corruption abounds. It usually starts from the top. Take for example the traffic police; they issue driving licenses without testing the driver’s expertise on the roads or his knowledge of traffic rules and laws. Obviously, you will have anarchy and accidents on the roads,” he declares. “I love Lahore; however, it’s a tragedy. We can make it beautiful. We must create a master plan and correct the deficiencies, we can make it better,” he concludes.

Speaking of zoning and industrial zoning in particular, SIE may be a state of the art, high tech industrial park that meets the international standards for infrastructure and amenities, however, the other older industrial park – Quaid-e- Azam Industrial Estate (QIE, originally called Kot Lakhpat Industrial Estate) sitting smack, dab in the middle of Model Town Extension and Johar Town is a disaster zone– open drains, broken roads, dangerous effluent and air emissions that are a health hazard are the norm here. Work on Kot Lakhpat estate has started since it’s been transferred to the PIEDMC from LDA but it’s in a very initial stages. The existing estates are to be upgraded by their respective boards of management comprising the stakeholders in the coming months as per the government. It remains to be seen if PIEDMC will be able to make a difference to QIE. This, however, doesn’t take into account the small pockets of industry that dot the Sheikhupura Road, Raiwind/ Manga Road, Multan Road and Ferozepur Road. Not only are the industrial units part of the fabric of Lahore now, they are no longer in the outskirts. Rapid urbanization of Lahore has taken them in the middle of new residential and commercial development schemes.

It’s commendable that every effort is being made to comply with WTO environmental concerns in our government policies; however, we need to make sure as citizens of Pakistan that the systems in place are actually working and don’t just apply to industrial parks only. A disquieting study conducted by RA Sial and MI Latif, (Pesticide Residue Laboratory, Government of Punjab, Kala Shah Kaku, Pakistan), MF Chaudhry and AG Khan, (Department of Microbiology, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan) and ST Abbas, (Rice Program, National Agriculture Research Center, Islamabad, Pakistan) on Hattar Industrial Estate in July 2006 clearly states that even though Hattar Industrial Estate in NWFP has modern state of the art water treatment plant, the water they are discharging into Wah drain after treatment is still not suitable for irrigation. “Of 6634 registered industries in Pakistan, 1228 are considered to be highly toxic. The major industries include textile, pharmaceutical, chemicals (organic and inorganic), food industries, ceramics, steel, oil mills and leather tanning which spread all over four provinces, with the larger number located in Sindh and Punjab, with smaller number in NWFP(now called KP) and Balochistan… These industries although developed with proper planning are discharging their effluents in the nearby natural drains that ultimately collect in a big drain near Wah. The farmers in the vicinity are using these effluents for growing vegetables and cereal crops due to shortage of water…On the whole, these effluents cannot be used for irrigation without proper treatment otherwise that may cause toxicity to soil, plants and animals as well add to the problems of salinity and acidity. Similarly, these effluents cannot be used for fish farming,” the Hatter study concludes.

It’s scary to know that in an effort to earn more foreign exchange to pay our national debts, we are rapidly setting up more industry that might in the long run harm our environment and damage our agricultural sector. We definitely need zoning and due diligence to ensure sensible measures are being taken when planning any new developments in major metropolitan areas of Pakistan, taking Lahore’s example as a case in point. Are we planning to send Pakistan back to Stone Age in our quest for progress? But even the Stone Age community had clean air to breathe, fresh and clean water to drink, enough food to survive and no modern diseases like cancer, acute diarrhea or asthma that are part and parcel of modern city life to contend with! ■

Editor’s noteQuaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate (QIE) is no longer work in progress. The work is complete. FYI – there were many more facts and figures contained in this article originally which my boss (COO – Value TV)  asked me to take out as it was making the article too scary to read for regular readers! 🙂


Valuemag issue 3, July 2008, Business Diary: Current Affairs. Magazine Layout: M.Asif

2 industry

This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, issue 3, July 2008.

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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Tkfr.com and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.


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