Environment not a priority for Punjab govt
RAWALPINDI: Living up to its repute, the Punjab government is about to defy environment department yet again.
Punjab government is going to lay the foundation stone of Rs530 million worth of Peshawar Road expansion project from Chur Chowk to Charing Cross on Saturday (tomorrow) without bothering to get environmental impact assessment (EIA) report from Punjab Environment Protection Agency (Punjab-EPA).
According to details, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif will lay the foundation stone of the project at Chur Chowk. The City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) has already installed the plaque mentioning his name.
According to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 (Section 12) the provincial secretaries and local administrative staff were bound to obtain the EIA report from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) before starting any construction project.
The rule also stated that these officers needed to publish public notices in the national press about the project in connection with the EIA and the initial environmental examination reports of the project.
Sources said the provincial government did not bother to follow the rules. They feared the expansion would eat up more than three-kilometer-long green belt along Peshawar Road from Chur Chowk to Charing Cross as the road would be widened to four lanes on each side.
“The provincial authorities did not contact Punjab-EPA for EIA report of the project,” confirmed District Officer Environment Saleem Janjua while talking to Dawn. He said the authorities concerned submitted the application for EIA report of Marir Chowk Tunnel and other two roads in the city but his office did not receive any application for the expansion project.
He said it was necessary for the authorities to get EIA report otherwise the environment watchdog would stop the project. He added the final decision would be taken by Punjab-EPA’s high authorities.
When contacted, Acting Commissioner and District Coordination Officer (DCO) Saqib Zafar said “the process of obtaining the EIA report has been initiated and soon we will get it”. He added that work on the project would be launched by National Logistic Cell (NLC) soon after the foundation-stone laying ceremony.
It is pertinent to mention here that earlier, the provincial government launched two main projects – Chandni Chowk Flyover and Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology in the city, without getting the EIA report.
Both projects were launched despite the fact that Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) did not issue No-Objection Certificate (NOC) and expressed reservations over the projects nearing the airport. The CAA warned the provincial government that the height of flyover and cardiology institute buildings would disturb the aircrafts’ movement. However, the provincial government ignored the reservations.
The matter was still pending with Defence Secretary as after the memo scandal, the secretary got changed and the new secretary failed to fix the date for a meeting of provincial authorities over the issue.—Aamir Yasin