A LABORATORY OF Environmental Sciences has been set up in Lahore by the Pakistan Tanners Association Lab Society with the financial and technical assistance of the government of the Netherlands. The laboratories were inaugurated by Makhdoom Ashfaq, provincial minister of environment protection, Government of Punjab, in June.

The aim of the laboratory is to provide accurate testing services and help tanneries design more effective treatment plants, carry out research and educate tanners on environmental matters.

PTA northern zone president Agha Saiddain said that the laboratory was equipped with facilities for research through pilot plants for the development of cleaner technologies in the leather industry.

He said the laboratory would also help to reduce the pollution load from tanneries in downstream communities.

Compliance with national and international legislation on environmental protection will cost tanneries a great deal of money and the leather industry, already facing tough competition in the international market, would find it difficult to make the necessary investment.

Under international law, factories will have to control and treat emissions in the future. Under the World Trade organisation, no industry will be able to export their products without being certified under ISO 14000. Factories lacking treatment plants will not be able to obtain certification. Previously, existing local laboratories were not precise enough to provide testing services for the design of optimal treatment technologies.

According to Agha Saiddain, there had been only one internationally acceptable laboratory in the country and that was located in Karachi. This situation, if allowed to continue, would put the export of leather from Punjab under serious threat in the years to come. If the environmental infrastructure is not put in place in the near future the chances of survival in the international market would be bleak.