Environmental Protection Department asked to address bus project violations
By: Sonia Malik
LAHORE: A complaint has been filed with the Environmental Protection Department citing violations of the Punjab Environmental Protection Act of 2012 by the government in the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit System project.
The complaint was filed to EPD Director General Maqsood Lak by Akhtar Awan, an environmental lawyer who runs Eco Green, a consultancy firm. He said in the complaint that the project was not sustainable in the long run.
He said that the elevated BRTS track threatened the scenic beauty of various areas and would result in a fall in property prices.
He said that proposals made at the public hearing of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project for expanded footpaths and separate lanes for motorcycles and rickshaws had been ignored. He said after the EIA public hearing, an EPD team is supposed to do a survey and prepare a public inspection report reviewing the feasibility of the suggestions made at the public hearing.
He said that this had not been done with the BRTS. He said that a second public hearing should have been called immediately when the project plan was altered, but this had not happened.
Awan said that construction material and asphalt mixing equipment used in the construction was being stored at public parks. He said residents of The Mall and Riwaz Garden Housing Society, situated between MAO College and Chauburji, had been unable to use the park near the Planetarium.
He said the BRTS construction site between the Lower Mall and Mozang had still not been cordoned off. Big ditches had been left uncovered and these caused a number of accidents, several of them fatal. There had also been a rise in pollution since the project began. No public safety measures were in effect, he said.
Awan said he wanted to take the case to the environment tribunal, rather than the green bench of the Lahore High Court, as he expected the tribunal to be more sympathetic towards environmental concerns. He said that Ahmed Rafay Alam, another environmental lawyer, had sought a stay order on the construction of the Kalma Chowk flyover because no EIA had been conducted.
“But the court allowed its construction, declaring it to be in larger interest of the public. I fear the same thing would happen if I take the case to the LHC,” he said. He added that the BRTS construction was in violation of Sections 12 and 16 of the PEPA.
An EPD official said that if a private person filed a complaint with the department that was not addressed within 30 days, the person could move the environmental tribunal.The complaint has been forwarded to Naseemur Rahman Shah, the EIA director at the EPD. Shah said that he had asked District Officer (Environment) Azhar Iqbal to compile a report in response to Awan’s complaints. He said it was the DO’s job to track the environment hazards posed by large-scale projects.