PAKISTAN: Sewage plant defies Government

With picture of the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) sewage plan (© NCSS)
With picture of the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) sewage plan (© NCSS)

A sewage plant in Pakistan, whose noise and smell are blamed for damaging the health of 1,500 children at a nearby Christian school, is still up and running in spite of a Government order for it to close with immediate effect.

Pakistan’s federal ministry of climate change issued notification on Monday, 28th June that the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) was to cease operations at the site in Faisalabad next to the New Covenant Schools System (NCSS) but a week later local reports state the plant is still functioning.

WASA’s apparent failure to respond to government demands has outraged school authorities who accused the sewage operators of trying to sabotage the education of Christian children by choosing to erect the plant next to the school.

Bishop Iftikhar Indryas, who runs the school, said: “WASA could have chosen anywhere to construct this sewage plan and yet they chose to put it next to our school.”

The bishop, who has campaigned against the plant since it began operating earlier this year, said: “If the site next door had been a mosque or a madrassa, can we really be expected to believe they would go ahead and create a sewage plant?”

School managers blame the failure to enforce the government’s demands on Islamist groups with high-level political influence and widespread popular support.

Amid reports of toxic odours from the sewage plant and noise levels peaking at more than 80 decibels, Bishop Indryas said the WASA plant in Faisalabad was to blame for a rise in cases of headaches, stomach problems, stress and lack of concentration among children at the NCSS school.

He said: “If we did not stand against this plant, one day the sound and smell would become so bad the children could no longer continue there and so those opposed to us would win.

“It is clear to us that this is part of a plan to stop children from being educated. We Christians are treated like sewage.

“What those in charge want is for children to grow up to become sanitary workers and spend their time doing the horrible, smelly jobs that they themselves don’t want to do.”

Bishop Indryas’s battle against the WASA plant achieved a breakthrough in February when the Punjab Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revoked its permission for the disposal station to go ahead.

After months of delay, last month Zartaj Gul Wasir from the climate change ministry, acknowledged the EPA ruling, stating: “The station is a source of bad smell/odour… and… noise pollution from the adjacent [school], which surely compromises the health of the young children.”

In the UK House of Commons Brendan O’Hara MP asked a question about the sewage plant and in reply, Asia Minister Nigel Adams said it was a local matter but said the UK was committed to defence of religious liberty in Pakistan and “strongly condemns the persecution of minorities”.

Church representatives claim that “most” sewage disposal stations in Pakistan are sited next to churches and other Christian institutes and residential areas with high densities of Christians.

Reports suggest that up to 90 percent of sewage workers are Christians and yet they make up less than two percent of the total population in Pakistan.