Celebration of Life

Archive for December, 2008

Doctors and environmentalists warn against ‘sri pai’

By Abdul Manan

LAHORE: People throughout the city are eating the unhealthy and potentially hazardous ‘sri pai’, as these are prepared by burning off the hair of goats with highly toxic gases, doctors and environmentalists told Daily Times on Saturday.

There are two ways to cook sri pai- it can either be cooked by properly mixing the Acetylene gas with Oxygen, or it can be cooked by using various PVC plastic pipes, capacitors and electronic and plastic waste.

CDGL: People throughout the city have established temporary furnaces along roadsides, especially at the corner of every street in the Walled City. The City District Government Lahore (CDGL) officials had previously confiscated gas mixture equipments required for cooking sri pai, with a view that gas cylinders were too dangerous to be allowed at roadside restaurants. Hence, most people have started to use electronic and plastic waste as the tool of choice to burn sri pai at high temperatures.

Health risks: However, various doctors and environmentalists have strongly criticised the burning process that makes use of electronic and plastic wastes. University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Environmentalist Professor Dr AR Saleemi said that burning electronic and plastic waste released highly toxic gases, including Hydrocarbons, Dioxin, Chlorine and Carbon Monoxide. He said that when food is cooked over such toxic gases, it absorbs them and they adversely affect the health of those consuming the food.

He said that burning plastic and electronic waste to release toxic gases damaged the surrounding environment as well. He said that this adversely affected the health of the surrounding residents as well as those who come to consume the food.

He also pointed out that if sri pai was prepared by burning of Acetylene and Oxygen, the same food was not hazardous for health. He said that for those who are fond of eating sri pai, they should properly wash it before cooking it, and a mixture of gases should be used to attain the high temperature required to cook it.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Ejaz Ahmed Sheikh said that plastic waste emitted carcinogenic gases, which were highly toxic and hazardous for health. He said that these gases could cause serious damage to throat and lungs. He said that sri pai, which is prepared by burning plastic waste, should not be consumed because of the unhygienic preparation processes. He said that cardiac patients should avoid eating the sri pai as it is a very high-protein food.

Hairspray linked to birth defect

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: Boys born to women exposed to hairspray in the workplace may have a higher risk of being born with a genital defect, BBC reported on Friday.

Citing a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the report said that Imperial College London scientists talked to women who had babies with hypospadias, where the urinary tract is found away from the penis.

They reported that hairspray exposure more than doubled the risk. The study, however, said it was too early to say for certain that hairspray was the cause. Pregnant women will need to make their own choices about whether or not to avoid these kinds of exposures

The incidence of hypospadias has risen sharply in recent decades, and some experts have pointed the finger of suspicion at chemicals called phthalates, found in some plastics, including those found in hairspray.

PHA refills Manto Park lake without repairs

By Afnan Khan


LAHORE: The Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) has allowed the refilling of the artificial lake in Manto Park without repairing its base and boundary walls.

The PHA emptied the one-kilometre-long lake more than a month ago with a view to construct a concrete base and walls of the ancient lake as the constant water seepage from the lake was damaging the base of Minar-e-Pakistan.

Contractors and employees associated with the park told Daily Times that the decision to repair the lake was taken as cracks in its base were contaminating water with sewerage from a nearby drain, besides posing a danger to the foundation of the national monument. Similarly, the seepage was also damaging houses situated on the backside of the lake. There are also complaints from residents about the contamination of drinking water in the area.

Contractor Abid Hussain, who maintains the lake, said that the authorities had decided to drain water from the lake to repair it for leakages, which could damage the monument. However, another contractor, Tariq, said that the water seepage had not caused any damage to the monument so far. It was decided to refill the lake after a meeting with Project Director Yaqoob Chaudhry and other officials to entertain visitors on Eid, he added. The contractor said that water pumps had been turned on to refill the lake, adding that the lake would be ready for boating one week before Eid.

A park employee said that the lake was being refilled because contractors and the PHA were keen to make money on Eid through boating and operating a swing installed in the middle of the lake. The employee said that fish from the drain enter the lake through cracks and kill farm fish kept in the lake.

Minar-e-Pakistan Project Director Yaqoob Chaudhry said that the government had not released funds in time for the lake repair. He said contractors would lose a major portion of their profit if the lake was not opened on Eid.

Precautions: The director said that the stoppage of seepage was a precautionary measure, adding that it was not causing any damage to the monument. He said that the lake had been purged of parasite fish, adding that the repair work would start after the funds were released after Eid.

Lahore’s water contaminated by pollutants

By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: A hundred percent of samples taken from Lahore’s water supply and tested in 2006 were found to be contaminated, according to a paper presented at a conference on Pakistan’s water problem held at the Woodrow Wilson Centre.

According to Anita Chaudhry, who teaches Economics at the California State University, the contaminants found in Lahore’s water were iron, arsenic and bacteria.

Four years earlier, only 56 percent of the samples were contaminated. She also said that the average groundwater depth in east Lahore is 100 feet, while it is 40 feet in west Lahore. Access to safe drinking water in Punjab’s urban areas in 2002 was 95 percent against 87 percent in rural areas. Access to sanitation in urban areas was 92 percent and 35 percent in rural areas.

Problems: Chaudhry found that Lahore has no public storage capacity and water supply lasts for a few hours a day and remains highly variable. She also observed a crumbling distribution network with leaks and ‘unaccounted for’ water, nor was there any effective metering of water use.

At least 35 percent of households in urban Punjab have private electric groundwater pumps, Chaudhry said. She found that the costs of decentralised water access could be several times the cost of a centralised efficient water system. Because of dynamic inefficiency, water was being depleted for future generations.

Sewage, she found, is not treated and eventually it seeps into groundwater. She noted that the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established adequate standards for drinking water for physical parameters, bacterial contamination, essential inorganics and radioactive contamination.

Organic contaminants are, however, not regulated on a compound by compound basis. To avoid declining groundwater tables and deteriorating groundwater quality in fresh groundwater areas, and to ensure equal access to this increasingly important natural resource, the water portfolio, she suggested, should be diversified.

There should also be harvesting of rainwater, a reduction in groundwater withdrawals, proper management of wastewater and an appreciation of the constraints on fresh water. Chaudhry said the increase in supply of water is fundamentally a question of ‘reallocation’.

NGO protests ‘senseless’ tree cutting on Warsak Road

By Zakir Hassnain

PESHAWAR: Sarhad Conservation Network (SCN), a non- governmental organization (NGO), on Sunday protested against cutting of trees by Frontier Highway Authority (FHA) for the proposed expansion of Warsak Road demanding an inquiry into the project, as centuries old trees were not only a heritage, but also a great help in reducing pollution.

It said government officials had given unsatisfactory explanations to justify this ill-advised project. “One source says the chief minister has approved the road expansion project. Another says the provincial assembly speaker has ordered the widening of the road while others say numerous schools on Warsak Road have pushed the government due to the extreme traffic congestion during rush hours,” SCN spokesman Dr Adil Zareef told Daily Times.

Dr Adil said as usual a senseless road expansion project at the expense of precious trees, which helped reduce air and noise pollution and cool intense summer heat, had been designed without looking into its long-term ill effects.

“The government has not yet allocated any funds for the project so why they are in a hurry and felling costly trees, mainly Sheeshum trees, which are rare and our heritage,” said Adil, SCN executive member.

He was of the view that timber mafia was behind this exercise adding that the provincial assembly speaker had no authority to issue a directive in this regard.

Regarding pressure on the government by schools located on Warsak Road, he said a great heritage could not be sacrificed at the cost of schools.

Dr Adil said effective traffic laws, ban on unauthorized vehicles, alternative routes during rush hours and a mass transit system, either overhead railway service or underground subways like in other developed countries, was the only solution to smooth the flow of traffic.

He said Warsak Road widening project was a futile exercise that would destroy hundreds of old green trees. “We demand that the government stop such mindless projects jeopardizing health of people,” he said.

Maureen Lines of Frontier Heritage Trust (FHT) told Daily Times she had not been to the site but learnt of cutting of trees on Warsak Road through newspaper reports. “If the reports are true, I condemn this criminal exercise,” she added.

“Cutting of trees is a crime,” said Ms Lines. She said cutting of trees was no solution to traffic congestion. “We need a mass transit system in the city to get rid of traffic chaos,” said Ms Lines.

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