Faisalabad in economic terms holds the status of third largest city in
Pakistan and second largest in Punjab. Pricewaterhouse Coopers has
projected Faisalabad’s GDP to be around USD 87 billion by 2025. The city
produces substantial share of Pakistan’s textile exports. The new found
road networks have allowed expedient connectivity with Multan, Lahore,
Islamabad and Sargodha. The intra-city traffic jams are simply not seen
anymore. This has allowed diversification in the industrial base of
Faisalabad, which now also includes: food processing, pharmaceuticals,
furniture and jewellery.
This growth is not without several externalities. Sometimes one
also questions the sustainability of this growth as population increases
and greater rural to urban migration continues to take place. A recent
environmental impact survey conducted by the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI) for textile industry of Faisalabad observes that
there are two specific problems which need immediate deliberation by
First, industry complains of lack of energy to scale up their
operations. This in any way is essential in order to keep the growth
momentum high and absorb the growing labour force. Second,
non-observance with zoning regulations has implied that the segregation
between areas occupied by residences and industry has diminished.
Several communities are complaining of the hazardous industrial waste,
while the industry representatives feel that it is the sprawl that has
resulted in residential areas being so near to the industry.
Let us look at the economic predicaments first. Gas stoppages
are the biggest concern for industry and they are able to only obtain
25% of total requirement, which in turn is consumed within few hours.
This implies that for the rest of the time, industry has to rely on
solid fuel which includes coal, rubber, wood and corn cob which are
costly alternatives to gas. Due to a lack of proper supply chain of
these inputs their acquisition increases the overall cost of production.
On the other hand, usage of this solid fuel is also causing
environmental hazard such as pollution and nearby community is affected
from industrial emissions. Apart from this consuming wood as fuel is
fast leading to deforestation in neighbouring areas thus threatening the
According to claims from industry, it has lost 40% of their
pre-2008 production and claims that recurrent losses have increased
significantly. Many SMEs are now operating at a break-even. They,
however, are trying utmost not to shut down as a complete closure will
mean that re-entry in future will be costly once machines depreciate and
trained labour is lost.
The employment in textile sector of Faisalabad has decreased
considerably over the years. Again according to the industry claims 30%
of the labour (particularly in the textile SMEs) has already been laid
off. There was a feeling that certain lobbies have ensured gas supply to
the CNG sector in Pakistan for transportation sector, which in any case
provides employment to lesser numbers than the textile sector.
The survey reveals that the environmental standards are only
enforced by those who are involved in exports (as a mandatory
requirement) while the rest of the industry does not have any binding.
Industry seems least willing to protect the environment and this calls
for removing lacunas in the existing urban and environmental laws whose
effective implementation can in turn imply a legal binding on the
industry. There is noticeable evidence that the waste water is flowing
out of industry without undergoing any treatment process and local
doctors have complained about the adverse impact on human health.
According to the Pakistan Medical Research Council (PMRC)
survey, almost 74000 people in Faisalabad are affected from HBsAg
(Hepatitis B) annually and approximately 524,000 population is being
affected from HCV (Hepatitis C).
Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) along with
Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) observed that 67% of
collected samples of drinking water are not appropriate for human usage.
Free And Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reported that in July 2012,
Faisalabad had highest number of scabies cases (25827) in urban
Any future strategic vision for Faisalabad should aim to rest
the above mentioned reservations. The industry, government and
communities all have to play their distinct and important roles in order
to sustain industrial growth, regulate negative externalities and
ensure future employment. To start with, 3 basic actions are essential.
First, at the industry level only high quality chemicals should
be used as inputs. This should be communicated to the local communities,
which with time will win confidence of local and foreign customers.
Second, the government needs to have a long-term vision for
energy security. Any substitution from gas towards coal, cutting down
woods or burning of rubber will further exacerbate environmental
problems. The deteriorating environment has both social and economic
costs. These get translated into higher health and adaptation-related
Third, communities also need to realise that slums cannot be
raised near to the industrial areas. Such realisation can be helped by
local civil society organisations running health awareness campaigns.
During rainy days local community claims that untreated waste water
enters into their homes and disrupts their daily life and damages
property. Usually this results in the community activism, which shuts
down the industry for several days until the water recedes. This
however, calls for a more sustainable solution.
Role of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) is
central to the industrial growth and environment nexus in Faisalabad.
The industry regards this body and has confidence in its decisions.
APTMA can use its mandate to bring the industry, government and local
community on the same page and strike a win-win situation whereby
growth, employment and environment can be protected. Local research can
help in providing low-cost and greener energy solutions – some of which
can be seen in several parts of Punjab including Lahore and Sialkot.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.