Mangroves in peril
A CAVALIER approach to environmental issues is outmoded, myopic and often indicative of a callous disregard for human life. According to a report in this newspaper yesterday, an LNG import terminal project to be constructed at Port Qasim will entail the cutting down of around 900 mangrove trees. The project envisages the import of 4.5 million tonnes of LNG annually via a 600-metre pipeline that will pass through the mangrove forest. The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency appears to be acting in total contravention of its duty, and the rules of business, by sidelining the relevant government department while assessing the environmental impact of various development activities linked with the LNG project. Instead, it is blithely issuing no-objection certificates for the project to go ahead. Moreover, Sepa proceeded with a public hearing on the project despite the fact that its EIA lacked the mandatory NOC from the forest department.
There have been a number of judgements by the superior courts against cutting down mangrove forests. Apart from being hatcheries for fish and shrimp, mangroves are a natural buffer against sea erosion and destruction by the elements. Karachi’s green cover is already fast diminishing with trees — the lungs of our ecosystem — being ruthlessly chopped down to make way for an increasing number of high-rises. Sadly, Sepa appears to function as little more than a rubber stamp entity that has approved EIAs without following due procedure, and then glossed over, or even outright ignored, environmental concerns of citizens on issues that will profoundly impact their quality of life. The authority is also known to resort to underhand methods to ensure that the people do not get a fair chance to study the issue at hand and thus cannot participate constructively in the public debate that is their right. For example, Sepa gave only 16 days for concerned citizens to review and file their comments on the 2,400-page technical EIA report for the nuclear power plants to be built near Kanupp in Karachi. This dangerous farce must end.