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DHA high-rise attracts public criticism

KARACHI: Stakeholders at a public hearing held to discuss the Environmental Impact Assess­ment (EIA) report of a proposed high-rise project on Tuesday raised concerns over its sustainability and possible impacts on the fragile environment of the city, which already faces a civic crisis on account of acute shortage of water, lack of waste disposal measures, discharge of untreated waste into the sea and high levels of air and noise pollution.

A shared concern was linked to the capacity of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to ensure compliance of the environment management plan suggested in the EIA report of the project.

The meeting on Signature 27, a 25-storey residential-cum-commercial tower, to be built in Phase VII Extension of Defence Housing Authority (DHA) by Al-Feroz Private Limited, was organised by Sepa at a local hotel.

The project’s EIA was conducted by the Environmental Management Consultants (EMC).

Some prominent features of the project described as a ‘green building’ included a waste water treatment plant, an independent water system employing reverse osmosis (RO) plant and filtration system to conserve and recycle water without putting pressure on the main water lines, large-scale plantation, fire safety and security systems and adequate parking space.

Interestingly, the project proponent refused to share the project cost with the audience.

Sharing findings of the EIA report, Saquib Ejaz Hussain representing the EMC said the project to be developed on an empty reclaimed piece of land was mainly residential and would not likely to generate or attract substantial traffic volume in the immediate future.

Justifying construction of the project, he said that Karachi had become one of the fastest growing cities of the world and its present population was estimated to be 23.5 million. The project would help meet the city’s increasing residential needs, he argued.

“The current housing backlog in Karachi is estimated to be about 90,000 units per year. Accordingly about 100,000 new units will be required to be added per year to meet the requirements of 3.8 million households/units in the year 2020,” he said.

On approvals from relevant departments, he said the DHA and the Civil Aviation Authority had approved the project whereas K-Electric had also agreed to supply electricity to the proposed tower.

“Approval from Sepa will be a major milestone for the project because the Cantonment Board Clifton and utility agencies concerned have made it mandatory for all builders and developers to obtain Sepa’s approval as a pre-requisite for getting final clearances,” he said.

On air quality, he said the city’s air was heavily polluted as levels of sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide were found to be high in the entire city in studies. The project, however, was located in a moderately polluted area and wouldn’t adversely impact the environment, he observed.

To a question, he said waste water would be discharged deep in the ground through injection wells, a method commonly used by oil and gas exploration companies. The project, he pointed out, would be built on pile foundation and had been designed in a way to address threat from seismic activity and liquefaction.

One of the major concerns voiced during the meeting was about the project’s stability and its cost, which wasn’t shared with the audience.

Highlighting concerns, Imran Sabir representing Sepa said the EIA report should have included corporate social responsibility plans as the area surrounding the project was in pretty poor shape.

“Accessibility to water and disposal of waste water have emerged [as] major challenges for the project and it seems the entire cost of the project will ultimately be borne by its residents,” he said.

Some experts were of the view that RO plant was not a reliable solution and the project proponent should look for other options.

“The geological structure of the city is fragile. The level of city’s underground water has also gone down drastically over the years and massive extraction of underground water will lead to increased sea water intrusion. Hence, RO plant is not a good solution,” said senior scientist Dr Mirza Arshad Ali Baig, suggesting ways to explore surface water resources.

Concern was also raised as to why Sepa chose the project for the public hearing when its hydrological studies were not yet completed while the project cost was still being worked out.

To a question on extraction of underground water and injection of waste water, it was explained that it would be done scientifically and there was no risk involved. There were also calls from the audience for an independent audit and evaluation of the project during the construction and operational phases.

Director Karachi office Ashiq Ali Langha at Sepa instructed the project proponent to submit an undertaking to the department that the project would mainly be a residential project.

courtesy : dawn news

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