Karachi, June 04: The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has called upon the provincial government to revisit its policy to declare 32 main roads of Karachi commercial saying that such large scale commercialization has been done without conducting mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of any of the selected thoroughfares.
The call from SEPA to review the policy of declaring such large number of roads commercial in the city without prior environmental assessment of the move came from its Director-General Naeem Ahmed Mughal who took part and summed up a round table discussion held here on Saturday.
A large number of concerned stakeholders from the govt agencies, industry, business, academia, and non-governmental sectors attended the discussion titled “Mission: rehabilitate and save Karachi” organized jointly by National Forum for Environment and Health, SEPA & EMC PakistanThe moot was organized on the eve of World Environment Day, 2016.
The SEPA chief said on the occasion that the manner 32 roads in the city had been declared commercial would sure to create serious issues related to availability of needed civic infrastructure while resultant progress so done in Karachi would not be sustainable at all.
He said that instead of declaring so many roads commercial at a time, any specific area of the city should have been selected by the govt for block commercialization with the concept of high-density development but such selection should only be done after proper EIA of the proposed location.
The SEPA D.G said that land owning and civic agencies in the city should not be allowed to do conversion of land-use status of the area under their respective control without conducting EIA for such an act as commercialization and development so done without due examination would cause further damage to the environment.
He lamented the situation that certain institutions in Sindh related to industries, local government, land development and owning agencies, and other sectors considered that environmental protection act of the province was not at all applicable to them.
He said that land owning agencies in the city like KPT and DHA were reluctant to implement the environmental protection law of the province.
He said that different land owning agencies were not in a position to justify the massive commercialization being done in their respective territories including construction of high-rise buildings as such unplanned and unsustainable development resulted into rampant degradation of environment.
He conceded the situation that in the past the SEPA owing to resource constraints could not ensure implementation of the environmental laws on uniform basis on all the relevant stakeholders and agencies. “But it is high time for us to send a clear-cut message to all to duly observe the environmental law and take all the required measures to mitigate the situation in this regard as otherwise the law would take its own course,” said the SEPA chief.
He warned the agencies and industrial units causing pollution that environmental tribunal was very much active in the province as it had been empowered under the law to impose fine up to Rs five million and sentence any person up to three years of imprisonment for causing damage to the environment.
He said the SEPA had started getting its act together and in the first stage it had targeted some 70 major industrial units in the province making it binding upon them to install their own waste water treatment plant and also prepare environmental management plans.
Regarding the high-profile issue of a Super Store recently inaugurated in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of the city, Mr. Mughal claimed that the SEPA before launching of the store was very much cognizant of the issue created due to allotting an unsuitable place for the store to do its operations.
He said the SEPA had even issued an environmental protection order to the store’s management to shut down its working till resolution of the issues related to EIA of the shopping centre.
Rehan Hashmi, former MNA of MQM and chairman-designate of DMC Central in Karachi, said that authorities doing work for Green Line Rapid Bus Transit Service in the city had estimated that some 17,000 trees would be uprooted due to the construction work on the proposed route of Green Bus project while his won assessment put the number of trees likely to be uprooted at 25,000.
He called for adopting a proper monitoring mechanism by involving all the concerned stakeholders for ensuring that new trees would be planted in the city in place of the uprooted ones.
He also called upon two privately owned utility companies working in the city the PTCL and K-Electric to do the needful work for resolving the environmental issue created due to haphazard wire networks of their services, which created a highly hazardous web-like mass of wires on several service poles of these utilities.
He said that alternative energy plant run by bio-gas should be installed at Landhi Cattle colony whose feasibility had been made so to prevent waste generated there to be constantly dumped into sea causing massive marine pollution in Arabian Sea.
Former lawmaker said that whenever he would take over the charge of District Municipal Corporation Central, he would constitute a monitoring committee having representation of all the concerned NGOs for keeping a check on environmental issues in the district.
Dr. Mirza Arshad Baig, former DG of PSCIR, said that major portion of land in Karachi had started virtually sinking into earth owing to the unplanned and unchecked activity constantly being done for extracting water, sand and gravel, and other minerals from suburban areas as such activities had caused to increase aridity of the land.
He said that uncheck exploitation and use of land and underground resources of Karachi had also caused to increase temperature of the city by an average two degree centigrade.
He said that further development in the city should be made under the influence of centrifugal forces to develop areas away from centre of Karachi.
He said that industrial units in the city could not absolve themselves of the obligation to construct their own preliminary waste water treatment plant as such an environmental safeguard had to be built on mandatory basis instead of waiting for development of the proposed combined effluent treatment plants of the industrial zones. Ijaz Khilji, an expert of urban mass transport services, said that at the time of independence of Pakistan in 1947 the population of Karachi was about 3,57,000 but the city with so lesser population had a mass transit system in the form of tram service.
He said that in 1952 the idea of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) had been conceived for the first time which was later launched in 1964 while the KCR continued its service in full swing till 1984 when population of the city was between 03 million to 3.5 million while 104 trains had been used for the service on 24 hours basis.
Khilji said that KCR had been the most viable and feasible mass transit option, which could be easily implemented for benefit of people of Karachi as he negated the impression that the project could not be implemented due to large scale encroachment of the land of proposed route of the citywide railway service.
Out of 43 kilometres proposed route of KCR only 13 km land area is encroached upon, which could easily be vacated by occupants as under feasibility of the project the plan is fully read to resettle effected residents of the circular railway project. M.Naeem Qureshi President NFEH, Gulzar Firoz Chairman Standing Committee on Environment FPCCI, Dr Kaiser Waheed Chairman NFEH, Ronald D Souza from Shehri, representatives of 4 trade associations, MD KUTC, Administrator DMC east, Nadeem Arif CEO EMC Pak, ecologist, Rafi ul Haq, Engr.Nadeem Ashraf & others also spoke on the occasion.