A sewage plant located near a Christian school in Faisalabad, Pakistan, is continuing operations despite a government order to shut down.
School authorities say toxic odors and excessive noise from the plant are causing headaches, stomach problems, stress, and lack of concentration among school children.
“It is clear to us that this is part of a plan to stop children from being educated,” said Christian bishop Iftikhar Indryas. “We Christians are being treated like sewage.”
Already in February, the Punjab provincial government’s Environmental Protection Agency had revoked its permission for the disposal station to go ahead. The ruling was acknowledged in June by Zartaj Gul Wasir from the government’s climate change ministry, who said, “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.” On June 28th, the ministry ordered the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) to cease operations. One week later, however, operations are still ongoing.
“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,” said Bishop Indryas. Despite being only two percent of the overall population, almost 90% of sewage workers in Pakistan are Christians, according to a press release from Christian advocacy group Aid to the Church in Need. Pakistani Christians say “most” sewage disposal stations in Pakistan are located close to churches or other Christian institutions, or in residential areas with high numbers of Christians.
Bishop Indryas told ACN, “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 have blamed influential Islamist groups for the failure to enforce the government’s order to shutter the sewage plant.