459 illegal factories thriving in Lahore, claims LDAPakistan
After the recent collapse of a four-storey factory building at the Sundar Industrial Estate that killed 46 workers, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has released a list of 459 small factories and industrial units that have been operating illegally in congested residential areas of Lahore.
The LDA survey exposes 459 small factories in the provincial capital that have been built illegally and are not following the required by-laws. Factories are being set up in residential areas, for everything from pharmaceuticals to steel goods. In the meantime, residential areas are developing zones meant for commercial activity.
Also Read: Sundar factory collapse Inquiry team holds senior officials, contractor responsible
In their programme Exposed, DawnNews talked to Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Mian Muhammad Arshad, Director General Rescue 1122 Brig Arshad, DO Industries Lahore Muhammad Azhar Hussain, PML-N MNA Sheikh Rohail Asghar and PTI leader Mian Aslam Iqbal to highlight this issue.
The presence of illegal factories in residential areas – which include steel workshops, embroidery factories, CNG filling stations, sugar mills and wielding shops – is a grave threat to the lives of people.
Sugar and pharmaceutical factories, for example, are built on only ten acres of land, which is a dangerously cramped setting for the equipment used. It is nothing less than a ticking bomb. In the case of an accident or fire, rescue vehicles have difficulty reaching the spot because of cramped streets.
In fact, accidents in illegal factories occur frequently, and have taken hundreds of lives. Within a week of the Sundar factory mishap, there was another fire at Waheed Iron Factory in Burki, where 5 workers lost their lives.
In May, 3 people died in a boiler explosion in the Township residential area — another case of an illegal factory functioning within a residential area. The deadliest accident took place in July 2012, when 26 people were killed in a boiler explosion in a medicine factory on Multan Road, Kharak.
Despite outrage, the chemical factory at Kharak was not closed down. No action was taken against its owners or the men involved.
Journalist Asif Butt blames the Lahore Development Authority for its inefficiency and corruption. They not only allow, but facilitate these illegal industries.
Residents have grown tired of filing complaints with the LDA, asking officials to investigate these factories which violate several construction by-laws. But no investigations take place, and when officials are sent to investigate, the factory owners send them away with bribes.
In some cases, the residents who file the complaints end up getting into trouble – the officials force them to pay a fine for violating the by-laws.
At the time LDA was conducting this survey, Ferozepur Road and Defence Road, where any kind of development (residential or commercial) is banned, had one building after another propping up on illegal pillar construction.
Butt feels that LDA is complicit in the growth of these illegal factories. MPAs and MNAs are equally responsible, and are often patrons of the very factories that should be shut down.
In light of the survey, Advocate Chaudhry Muhammad Akram, previous vice president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, has been asked to put together a team of officials who will conduct investigations, and take action accordingly.
PTI leader Mian Aslam Iqbal blames the Punjab government for its inefficiency in dealing with illegal construction.
“Why would they care about this issue, when they’re busy constructing roads themselves?” he asks.
The LCCI President feels that the mushrooming of illegal factories is a consequence of the tussle for power between the Ministry of Industry Punjab and the LDA.
“Industrialists have met the chief secretary and expressed their interest in investing in new industrial units, provided that the provincial government sets up new industrial parks for the purpose,” said LCCI President.