Shahabuddin market project going up without Sepa nod
KARACHI, Jan 20: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation is building a mammoth project – Shahabuddin Market and Parking Plaza (SMPP) – without obtaining mandatory approval of its environmental-impact assessment from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, it emerged on Sunday.
Responding to Dawn queries, the Sepa chief said his organistion had not yet received an application from the KMC for EIA approval for the SMPP. A KMC spokesperson, however, insisted that an EIA report had been submitted but approval had not yet been granted by Sepa.
According to sources, the SMPP is the second major project being constructed by the KMC without Sepa’s mandatory approval – the other major project being the construction of four flyovers on Shahrah-i-Pakistan at the Waterpump, Ayesha Manzil, Dakkhana and Teen Hatti intersections.
The sources said that under the environmental laws work on a project could be started only after Sepa had approved its EIA report.
The SMPP project, located right behind the historical Empress Market in Saddar, was initiated around six years back and was scheduled to be completed in a couple of years. Hundreds of shopkeepers having their business establishments in the old Shahabuddin Market were relocated to a temporary market constructed in the Lines Area with a promise that they would be accommodated in the new market-cum-parking-plaza building that was to be constructed on the site of the old market.
The ambitious new building project, costing over a couple of billion rupees, is being constructed on a 27,539-square-yard plot and after completion would have over 900,000-square-foot covered area. It would comprise over 2,600 shops on the lower ground, ground, mezzanine and first floors while the upper four parking floors are expected to accommodate over 1,650 cars and over 575 motorcycles. Currently the KMC is constructing only phase A of the project at a cost of around Rs735 million.
The KMC has constructed a similar huge parking plaza to accommodate hundreds of cars and motorcycles and the building also has a large number of shops etc. Located around a couple of hundred yards from the under-construction SMPP, the old parking plaza with its shopping centre has remained vacant for the past many years, blocking around a billion rupees of the cash-starved civic agency which now finds it difficult to pay even its employees salaries.
Responding to Dawn queries on Wedesday, Sepa director-general Rafiudddin said that under the laws EIA report approval by Sepa was a must for such big projects, but the KMC had not yet submitted an EIA report. He said after a report was submitted legal process started with, among other things, the holding of a public hearing, and its evaluation, then a decision was taken.
He said as EIA approval had not been granted, the construction of the project was not according to the laws and should be stopped. He said he had initiated the process of notice writing and a summary had been moved to the departmental secretary and a notice would be issued to the KMC in a day or two.
Responding to Dawn queries, the KMC spokesperson on Wednesday insisted that an EIA report of the project had been submitted to Sepa and in due course of time its approval would be granted. However, work on the project was going on so that the people who had suffered a lot due to the delay in the implementation of the project could be provided relief.
He said the KMC was a government organisation working in public interest and the issuance of EIA approval was just a formality and Sepa would issue it hopefully soon.
The sources said Sepa took punitive action instantly whenever such an illegality like the start of a project without EIA approval was raised, but took its time when the law violator was a sister government organisation, like in this case the KMC, against which Sepa had taken no action. The civic agency is constructing the four flyovers without EIA approval. In the case of the SMPP project, work has been going on for the past many months.