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Tariq Road high-rise project draws severe public criticism at Sepa hearing

KARACHI: Yet another project lacking basic consultation with stakeholders and important approvals from relevant departments was put for discussion at a public hearing organised by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) at a hotel here on Wednesday.

And, as expected, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of the high-rise project titled ‘Dilkashan Heights’ was strongly opposed by many in attendance, some of whom are already in the court against the project initiated on Plot No. 25 and 26 of Dehli Cooperative Housing Society on the main Tariq Road, opposite to the Dolmen Mall.

The project area measures 1,906 square yards.

The construction, which followed an IEE (initial environmental examination) approval from Sepa, got stayed last year by the Sindh High Court that gave directives for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project.

Interestingly, the project initially planned to be ground-plus-16 floor lacks approval from the Civil Aviation Authority for its revised height with two additional floors.

Describing the EIA report as ‘bogus’, some stakeholders said Tariq Road, one of the most important arteries of the city, was already in a mess (owing to massive commercialisation and poor performance of civic agencies) and the fact that the project lacked nod from relevant departments for water, gas and electricity supplies would deteriorate living conditions.

“Sepa itself has violated the law by not conducting the EIA in the first place and how could a violator become a regulator in the same project?” argued environmental lawyer Zubair Abro, drawing a parallel between the Bahria project in Clifton and the Dilkashan Heights in Jamshed town.

He cited a discrepancy in the 2014 Sepa regulations whose schedule one called for an IEE, if the project area was over 2000 square yards while under its schedule two, an EIA was required if the building had more than 15 floors.

The Bahria project, he said, was also given a go-ahead by Sepa through an IEE, but later the project was challenged in the high court.

“The court gave a clear order according to which “if a project can be regarded as falling within two different entries, one set out in schedule one and the other in schedule two, then it must be regarded within the latter and hence requiring an EIA,” he pointed out while reading out text from the relevant court directives issued in 2014 during the case hearing.

To this, Imran Nabi representing Sepa said the agency was holding the public hearing on the high-rise case on the court’s order.

On residents’ concerns, it was repeatedly stated that the area in question was already seeing massive construction and approval of another project would add to traffic congestion, noise and air pollution and increase pressure on water and electricity supplies.

“How would the project proponent get 38,000 gallon of water supplies daily in an area already facing water shortage,” asked Mr Shahid, an area resident, adding that drainage problem would get worse in the area if the project was built.

A lawyer representing the Delhi Mercantile Cooperative Society, the petitioner in the SHC case filed against the project, endorsed the view that an EIA was required for the project and not an IEE as happened.

“The purpose of public participation as directed by the court is defeated if stakeholders were not informed well before time about the public hearing that could have come in large numbers at the meeting,” he said, arguing that environmental conditions of the area had already reached a saturation point and more constructions would further deteriorate environment.

Raising questions over the EIA report, Amber Alibhai representing Shehri-Citizens for a Better Tomorrow said the document contained false information. “The report says that common fauna recorded in the city include chinkaras, hog deer and jackals. We want to know where these animals are found in the city.”

The EIA report, she said, neither contained architectural plans of the project nor information about its present status.

“We want to know whether the project met the IEE requirements and, if so, what were they? And, what additional is now required from the project proponent,” she said.

Earlier, giving a presentation on the project by Ameer Construction, engineer Shahid Lutfi said the project had approvals for conversion into commercial plot from residential one and for construction from the Sindh Building Control Authority.

“Shops/commercial area will be only on the ground and 1st floor whereas 72 residential apartments will be on the 5 to 16 floors. Three floors are reserved for parking,” he said, adding that it would have no significant impact on environment.

In his remarks, Sepa director general said the agency would hold another meeting with area residents to sort out means to address their concerns.

“Massive commercialisation of roads, most of which was done by the city council in 2002, and later by other departments, has created a disaster as city’s needs were not assessed. We need to apply a broader vision and every department needs to play its role to protect public interests,” he said.

Last month, Sepa had allowed public hearing of a Rs13bn coal project, though it lacked consultation with stakeholders during the project’s EIA.

Courtesy : Dawn News



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