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Published Date: May 9, 2014

SDPI Report – Tragedy at DIK Sugar Mills Site-SDPI Press release

The
incident took place 5 – 6 kilometer away from Chashma  Sugar Mill &
Ethanol Distillery, Ramak  and Tandlian-Wala Sugar Mill, Miran, on May 02, 2014
around 1700 hours at Basti Plowa, Ramak, Tehsil Parova, Dera Ismail
Khan (DIK), wherein nine precious lives (including two females) were
lost  and 11 persons injured. The injured were admitted to THQ hospital,
Prova and  DHQ hospital DIK . Later on some patients were taken to
Nishtar Hospital Multan. Both sugar mills started operation between
2004–2006 but the production was closed down (at the end of the season)
in March, 2014. Ethanol distillery started operation in early this year
but was closed the same day the tragic incident happened.

Disregarding
environmental legislation "Prohibition of Certain discharges or
emissions," the Ramak  sugar mill and the Ethanol distillery (when in
operation) discharge their untreated  effluents into the nearby stream
(barsati nalah) through an open drain (about two kilometer in length),
whereas,  the Miran sugar mill (when in operation) discharges the
untreated effluents directly  into the same stream. However, the place
of incident is located three KM away from  the untreated effluents entry
points,. At the time of incident both the drain and the stream were not
in full flow but there were pools of effluents (of different sizes)
here and there, both in the drain as well as in the stream. From time to
time, there have been reports of people getting feet injuries at the
very spot and also one reported incident of cattle falling into the
effluent pool, containing/ emitting hazardous chemicals of most
unbearable foul  odor. Part of the stream (dry/low water level) is a
daily routine walking path for villagers & others to go and after
work return from the nearby agricultural farms/ fields.  Plain
even/uneven wooden board are placed over these effluents pools of
different size/depth for passing over by the people. 

On
the day of incident, a girl while walking over the wooden board to
cross the effluent pool/stream due to toxic vapors fainted/ slipped and
fell into effluent pool.  Her mother and another female jumped, to save
her but the two themselves seem immediately affected by the toxic
vapors, struggled to get out and started shouting for help. Those who
followed met the same fate, resulting nine persons losing their lives
and eleven had to be admitted to hospital due to injuries.

Hazardousness
and toxicity of effluents/emission s from sugar mills and ethanol
distillery are well established. Most prominent among these are
extremely  foul and most unbearable distillery wastes, sulfur dioxide (
manufactured by burning sulfur)often used for clarification of sugarcane
juice and hydrogen sulfide,  resulting from bacterial action on
sulfur/sulfur compounds in anaerobic condition (absence of oxygen). Both
gases are water soluble and the very high temperature would enhance
their emission along with other volatile chemicals present in the
effluents. Both gases are heavier than air, hence would accumulate over
the ground/water surface in a closed, dry low water level shallow well
like area/situation. Faintness/death could be due to swallowing of toxic
effluent and/or both with the inhalation of these gases and
absence/lack of oxygen due anaerobic conditions caused by very high
biological oxygen demand (BOD) effluents.

The
wide and open area around the incident spot makes investigation for the
cause of deaths perplexing but there could be such  effluent
pools/ditches having the closed well like conditions/situation.

Owing
to security advice and tense situation at the incident site, SDPI
personnel  could not travel from DIK, to visit the site, the  affected
families  or the hospitals where the injured  were admitted.  However,
it is very heartening that DG, EPA, KPK , with his team had already
visited the site for on the spot observations/discussion.
We
look forward to environmental protection agency (EPA),KPK
report/findings of this most unfortunate incident with loss of precious
lives, to bring to justice to those responsible for the tragedy and the
grant of due compensation to the affected families/individuals.

Every
industry (be of sugar or some other product) in the country is fully
responsible for pre-treating its releases (effluents to land/water
bodies & emissions to air) at source before it reaches at the
factory boundary exit point, prior to flowing into the factory drain, if
any. EPAs are fully responsible to implement environmental legislation
to safeguard public/workers safety & health and protect the
environment. However, industries need not to be closed down or banned
and the industrial progress & growth be continued in the country
which is most essential for economic growth and poverty reduction. What
is most important and desirable is our industry turning into green
industry, with adequate investment in pollution control measures, to
avoid any such accidents in future, inshallah.