Another flyover project gets under way without Sepa approval

KARACHI, Oct 4: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation recently started building a flyover at the Water Pump intersection on Shahrah-i-Pakistan without obtaining mandatory permission from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, it emerged on Thursday.

Responding to Dawn queries, the Sepa chief said that a notice would be issued to the KMC over the violation of environmental laws.

Despite repeated attempts, the relevant KMC officials could not be approached by the phone for their version on the issue.

According to sources, this is the second such project — the first one being a flyover at the Ayesha Manzil intersection — on which the KMC had initiated work within a week, without obtaining permission from Sepa, which, after the issue had been highlighted in the media, had also issued a notice to the KMC asking it to stop the work till the grant of permission.

In both projects, which could not be started under the law, the KMC had invited Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan to lay the foundation stones.

According to a KMC statement, it plans to initiate the construction of a third flyover at the Dak Khana intersection within the next few days, but the mandatory permission from Sepa has not yet been obtained.

The sources said that under the rules any person / organisation before starting any project had to get an initial environmental examination (IEE) or an environmental impact assessment study done and submit its report to Sepa which after evaluating it and organising a public hearing and getting concerns of all stakeholders decided whether to issue the permission regarding the project. Only after getting permission work on the project could be started.

The Pakistan Environmental Protection Act prescribes long prison terms and heavy fines for the violators.

While laying the foundation stone at Water Pump on Wednesday, Governor Ibad had directed that construction work must continue round the clock with immediate completion of the service road. He was informed that the flyover would be completed within six months at a cost of Rs383 million.

Responding to Dawn queries on Wednesday, Sepa director-general Rafiuddin said he was surprised that the KMC had started work on the second flyover without getting permission from the agency though a notice had been sent to the KMC about a similar project a few days back, asking it to get permission before starting the work.

He said he had already instructed his staff to prepare another notice which was to be sent to the KMC on Monday.

Meanwhile, the earlier notice on the subject ‘Environmental approval of development projects’ had been issued by Sindh Environment Department Secretary Mir Hussain Ali on Sept 19 to KMC administrator Mohammad Hussain Syed, copies of which had been sent to the chief secretary, Sepa DG and the environment minister.

The notice says: “The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has initiated a number of development projects all over the city, which include improvement of road infrastructure and construction of flyover.

“Under Section 12 of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, it is mandatory for all proponents of development projects to get Environmental Impact Assessment or Initial Environmental Examination report of the project approved from the
Environmental Protection Agency Sindh, before the project is initiated.

The violation of this provision of law is punishable with a fine of a million rupees and imprisonment, and government agencies are not exempted from this law.

“As such you are hereby advised to ensure that the environmental assessment reports of all development projects being taken up by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation are submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency Sindh within 15 days positively, and till a formal approval is granted the projects may not be implemented.”

The sources said violations of the laws had almost become a matter of routine, but when private organisations were caught violating the laws or the issue was highlighted in the media and the regulators woke up, the private parties, besides being punished, instantly took corrective steps.

However, the government organisations did not care to follow the laws even after being informed through the media or even when notices were issued to them by the sister government organisations.

The regulators also take a lenient view and try to extend as much favour as they can to government organisations.Citing an example, the sources said that some time back the Defence Housing Authority had started the construction of a flyover at Gizri and being a government organisation it did not bother to get the mandatory EIA approval from Sepa and the EIA approval was eventually issued when the flyover project was nearing completion.

Now another government organisation, the KMC, had started building a flyover at Ayesha Manzil last week without the mandatory EIA approval for which Sepa also issued a notice to it, but feeling that the government organisations were “above the law”, it started another flyover project on Wednesday without the mandatory EIA approval, the sources added.