Environmental damage in Islamabad is ‘irreversible’
ISLAMABAD: Flagrant violation of Islamabad’s Master Plan and laws over the years has irreversibly degraded its verdant environment; a commission looking into the decay of the once green city was told on Wednesday.
“We know the problems and the laws, but this commission cannot answer why suggestions from similar public hearings and directions from courts have never been implemented,” local PTI MNA Asad Umar told the Islamabad Environment Commission constituted by the Islamabad High Court’s Justice Athar Minallah.
Some environmentalists provided an indication by objecting to the composition of the commission at the very start of the public hearing called to discuss the obvious deteriorating environment and civic mismanagement of Islamabad.
They considered a journalist, a lawyer, an economist and government officials of the District Management Group sitting on the commission, among others, as irrelevant individuals with no experience of “modern green city concepts”.
“What we need in the commission are city and urban planners who understand, and can address, the dynamic environmental requirements of Islamabad,” said an official from the Ministry of Climate Change.
Nonetheless, the commission carried on with the business. It heard the residents of Islamabad speak on small to big environmental concerns.
Dr Parvez Hassan, the architect of environmental laws, told the objectors that town planners were on board and MNA Asad Umar said that the commission had been pushing the Capital Development Authority to make Islamabad’s Master Plan public.
The Rs44 billion metro bus project was particularly cited as “blatant violation” of the Master Plan.
Some citizens raised questions about the dwindling water supply in the capital, cutting of trees for the metro bus service, lack of provisions for pedestrians and the physically challenged, poor hospital and industrial waste management and encroachments in Margalla Hills National Park.
All this contributed to disfiguring the once beautiful environment of Islamabad. And the poor means to collect data on the devastation made the restoration job harder, they said.
The gathering learnt that most land developers by-pass the Section 12 of the Environment Protection Act 1997.
This clause makes environment impact assessment (EIA) report mandatory for all small and large scale development projects in the city.
“Half the environmental concerns would be solved if public authorities enforce just this Section 12,” said an official in the commission.
Imrana Tiwana, an architect and environmentalist, observed that environment appeared “not a priority subject” for the government.
“No government can achieve social, cultural and economic progress, and there can be no development if people do not have clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe,” she said.
CDA’s Member Environment Mustafain Kazmi came to the defence of the civic authority, saying it had taken remedial measures from tree plantations to demarcating the Margalla Hills National Park to sustain the city’s environment.
“This is an ongoing process. Events and activities held to mark international days relating to environment demonstrated CDA’s commitment to maintain the green character of Islamabad,” he said.
In this regard, he rejected the view that the metro bus project damaged Islamabad’s green belts.
“There are provisions in Islamabad’s Master Plan for extra lanes,” he argued.
Kazmi also argued that temperature has been rising in Islamabad because of global warming and not because the city is turning into a concrete jungle.