Legal fraternity takes up environmental issues
HYDERABAD: With the subject of environment and its degradation receiving a greater consideration with the passage of time, the legal fraternity, at a conference on Thursday, discoursed on how the law can help stop man-made pollution. The event titled ‘Law Conference’ was organised by the Government Sindh Law College in collaboration with a non-profit organisation, RightsNow Pakistan, at a hotel in Hyderabad.
The judges, lawyers and civil society representatives expressed their views in three separate sessions pertaining to constitutionalism and human rights as well as the cyber and environmental laws. The justices of Sindh High Court, retired judges of the Supreme Court, senior lawyers and office bearers of Supreme Court Bar Association and Sindh Bar Council were among the panellists.
“Things can be done to improve the environment and the [civic] if someone dares to own the things,” observed Justice (Retd) Amir Hani Muslim, chairperson of the Supreme Court mandated water commission who chaired the session on environmental laws. He found fault with the government for failing to raise awareness about environment in the people, who commonly contribute to the pollution without knowing the consequences.
“We seem to lack even an iota of awareness. Not just in Sindh but in the whole country,” corroborating his assertion, he contended that even the authorities which regulate the environment like Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) lack grasp of the subject. He added that the agency needed capacity building, manpower and resources to enable it to improve enforcement of the laws.
He said that more than 12,000 tons of waste is thrown into the sea and the Indus River and its off-taking canals are being polluted at more than 500 locations in Sindh. Commenting of the drought hit Tharparkar, he informed that among some 834 reverse osmosis plants (RO plants) in that district only 239 were functional. And, he added, 50 of some 86 large RO plants are operating in Tharparkar.
“But the RO plant isn’t a solution,” he underlined, finding the supply of canal water through the pipelines as the acceptable alternative. The SEPA’s Regional Director Munir Ahmed Abbassi acknowledged that the under capacity has clipped the wings of the agency.
“The lack of staff, offices, equipment and vehicles is affecting the performance of SEPA,” he revealed. According to him, so far 152 cases have been filed against environmental offenders in the Sindh environment tribunal while 384 complaints have been logged with the judicial magistrates. He suggested that environment management centres should be established in all districts of Sindh to provide information on the subject to the people besides carrying out sensitisation exercises regularly.
Ali Akbar Rahimo, an environmental activist, spoke about the adverse impacts of coal extraction and power generation that will harm the people, environment, flora and fauna of Tharparkar in the long run.