Pakistan: Ten died because of untreated distillery effluents at Chashma Sugar

Reports of this Pakistani sugar tragedy are depressingly graphic. On 2 May, a girl walks over a wooden board to cross a drain through which the untreated effluents from an ethanol distillery run. She slipped and fell in the drain, probably because of inhaling the toxic vapors emaniting from the effluents. Her mother and a friend jumped to rescue her, only to get affected by the vapors. They called for help. A witness said that his son and a colleague were harvesting wheat nearby when they heard the women’s call for help. They jumped to the rescue them, but the toxic vapors also affected them. Eventually, ten people died, another nine were taking to hospital for treatment. Victims included women and children.

The incident happened near the Chashma Sugar Mill & Ethanol Distillery, Ramak  and Tandlian-Wala Sugar Mill, Miran. The mills started operation in 2004-2006, but production stopped at the end of the season. Then, in March 2014, the ethanol distillery started operating. A report by a Pakistati group said that both the mills and the distillery discharge the untreated effluents directly on to the stream. People living in the surrounding area have to walk on wooden boards over the stream, which is what happened to the girl.[1]

What happened next was only logical. An angry group of people, including relatives of the dead stormed the gates of the factory and set it on fire. The police intervened to qualm the protest and dispersed the protesters. Police have arrested seven employees of the Chashma Sugar Mills No 2, including the general manager and production manager.  It has been reported that the company will compensate affected families with 2.5 million rupees and half a million rupees to others (USD 1.00 = PKR 98.00). The company agreed to build a bridge where the incident happened, and to set up a treatment plant for their effluents.  A major complaint of the people in the area is that agriculture is their only source of income but the sugar mills are polluting the water stream used for their crops.

On 15 May, local media reported that the Peshawar High Court (PHC) asked the provincial government to submit a detailed report on the tragedy by the end of May.

[1] SDPI Report – Tragedy at DIK Sugar Mills Site. Press release dated on 9 May 2014, at http://www.sdpi.org/policy_outreach/news_details1766-2014.html. Accessed 23 May.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.iuf.org/sugarworkers/pakistan-ten-died-untreated-distillery-effluents-chashma-sugar/

1 comment

    • Miriam Wanyama on May 27, 2014 at 5:48 am

    This is sad news! We can physically count the number of the dead but how about members who have inhaled this toxic and is eating them up slowly? Where are Government bodies that safeguard the environment .e.g NEEMA?Is there a Union in the said Sugar Factory.?
    I call upon workers to inspect their work places and alert the necessary authorities.Otherwise we will continue losing innocent people and workers.

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