Drive against smoke-emitting vehicles launched: Sepa DG bars officials from 'direct interaction' with media Similar directives issued to all departments, says minister -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Drive against smoke-emitting vehicles launched: Sepa DG bars officials from ‘direct interaction’ with media Similar directives issued to all departments, says minister

By M. Waqar Bhatti

Karachi: All officials of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) have been barred from directly interacting with the media, The News has learnt.

Sources told The News that Sepa Director General (DG) Naeem Mughal issued a circular on Tuesday, directing employees of the agency to acquire permission from the competent authority before sharing any information with media personnel.

Interestingly, these directives are contrary to the stated policy of Sindh Environment Minister Shaikh Muhammad Afzal, who usually requests media personnel to assist his department by highlighting environmental issues and creating awareness among citizens.

This policy seems to have changed, however, as Afzal confirmed the directives issued by the Sepa DG at the official launch of the campaign against smoke-emitting vehicles. According to Afzal, these directives were not confined to Sepa or the environment department, but similar instructions were issued to all provincial departments.

“Actually, we have asked Sepa officials to acquire permission from their superiors before discussing anything with the media. We have never stopped them from talking to media personnel,” he said. Afzal added that when a journalist approaches any Sepa official, including its DG, the officer would have to consult his immediate boss, and after permission is granted, relevant information would be shared.

Sources from with Sepa alleged, however, that the move to ban officials from directly interacting with the media was initiated by Sepa DG Mughal and Environment Secretary Mir Hussain Ali, after their subordinates started apprising the media of their “misdeeds” in carrying out various projects.

“The VECOP project is an excellent example of the lackluster approach of Sepa authorities, as the venture was delayed for around four to five years. When the media started highlighting the negligence of Sepa, the authorities banned officials from talking to the media altogether,” sources said.

Moreover, source alleged, both the environment secretary and the DG used “various delay tactics” in kicking off VECOP, and now they were afraid that their tactics would be exposed by their subordinates.

“The environment secretary used all bureaucratic techniques to delay the recruitment of experts for VECOP, the purchase of equipment, vehicles, and consumables. He even caused the lapse of funds due to his tactics,” sources said, adding that the Sepa DG also created hurdles in the functioning of VECOP.

Other sources corroborated the account, and said that “nothing had been done” in several other projects initiated by Sepa, and if details of these projects are highlighted by the media, it would create pose a number of problems for the high-ranking officials of the environment protection agency.

Sources alleged that now, when experts associated VECOP were ready to start inspection of smoke-emitting vehicles and all bureaucratic hurdles have been overcome, these officials wanted to take credit for the launch of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Sepa DG Mughal defended the directives issued by him at the launching ceremony, claiming that government rules and regulations were clear about the matter. “I, myself, have faced explanation like some of my predecessors, who talked to the media about some issue. They were issued show-cause notices by their superiors for interacting with the media without having any authority,” he claimed.

Mughal said the directives issued by him also apply to him, as he was supposed to seek permission from Environment Secretary Mir Hussain Ali prior to discussing any departmental or environment-related matter with the media.

Meanwhile, Sindh Environment and Alternate Energy Minister Shaikh Muhammad Afzal announced that the campaign against smoke-emitting vehicles would be launched from Numaish Chowrangi on Wednesday, saying from now onwards, the drive against pollution causing vehicles had started.

Flanked by Environment Secretary Mir Hussain Ali and Sepa DG Naeem Mughal, the minister said that in the first phase, the campaign was aimed at creating awareness among transport operators as well as compiling data of smoke-emitting vehicles.

The minister maintained that impounding faulty vehicles in the first phase was not the solution, and said that when the department has all data and statistics of smoke-emitting vehicles, legal action against such vehicles would be initiated in the second phase. He said that by inspecting vehicles, whether public or private, his department wanted to dispel the notion that their action was aimed against any particular group, people or segment of society.
Source: The News
Date:1/27/2010