Pakistan News

NHA launches new airport section of metro bus project without Pak-EPA’s approval

NHA launches new airport section of metro bus project without Pak-EPA’s approval

ISLAMABAD: The National Highways Authority (NHA) has begun constructing tracks for the metro bus from Peshawar Mor to the new airport without mandatory approval from the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA).

The agency’s director general Farzana Altaf Shah told Dawn: “We have not granted formal approval for this project so far.” According to section 12 of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act and its regulations, no major development project can begin without approval from the agency.

The Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), which was the executing agency for the metro bus project from Rawalpindi to Peshawar Mor, also violated environmental laws by conducting public hearings when the project was already in progress.

This time, the NHA, which is the executing agency, and its contractors began construction work on the 25.6 kilometre track, a project worth over Rs16 billion, several days ago without the required approval.

During a visit to the site, Dawn noted that earthwork is being conducted in patches. It is said that the prime minister will inaugurate the project on Aug 14 this year along with the new airport.

A Pak-EPA official said: “No major road project can be started without approval from the EPA. Unfortunately, most of the time the government get’s Pak-EPA’s approval during the construction while the agency, which is under government control, cannot take any step other than give the required approval.”

He said that the agency asked the NHA in an official letter – available with Dawn – sent the same day Pak-EPA noted the construction activity to submit a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report and seek prior approval before starting any physical activity on the project site.

“The NHA submitted the EIA report a few days ago, and we have formed a committee which will review their report. After 30 days we will hold a public hearing on this project before granting final approval,” Ms Shah said. She said an agency team has visited the site and cooperation between the agency and the NHA is underway.

When contacted, NHA project director Samiullah Chatta said: “We have submitted the EIA report, the Pak-EPA also visited on site.” He added that the initial work being carried out is to look into the utility services lines, which will be shifted to another location.

Sources said the NHA is in blatant violation of environmental law because of pressures to meet its deadline. According to the law, they said, the Pak-EPA will place an advertisement in the press and after 30 days, a public hearing will be arranged on the project – this process is time-consuming, and the government wants the project completed before Aug 14.

Section 12 of the act reads: “No proponent of a project shall commence construction or operation unless he has filed with the Government Agency designated by Federal Environmental Protection Agency or Provincial Environmental Protection Agencies, as the case may be, or, where the project is likely to cause an adverse environmental effects an environmental impact assessment, and has obtained from the Government Agency approval in respect thereof.”

The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Review of IEE and EIA) Regulations 2000 state that federal or provincial highways or major roads, except maintenance, rebuilding or reconstruction of existing roads, with a total cost of Rs50 million or more, fall into the schedule II category and section 12 of the act is applicable to such projects.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2017

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