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‘Restaurants in Margallas, new Parade Avenue violate master plan’

‘Restaurants in Margallas, new Parade Avenue violate master plan’

ISLAMABAD: A high-powered environmental commission has claimed that a number of modern developments in the capital – such as the construction of the Pak-China Friendship Centre near Shakarparian and the presence of restaurants at Pir Sohawa and Daman-i-Koh – are violations of the Islamabad master plan.

The commission, constituted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), also claimed that shifting the Parade Ground from Parade Avenue near Constitution Avenue to Shakarparian, as well as the widening of roads and construction near Sector D-12 – within the limits of Margalla Hills National Park – was a violation of regulations.

The annual military parade, usually held on March 23, was abandoned in 2008 in the wake of increased terrorist attacks and only resumed this year after the new Parade Ground was completed.

In February of this year, IHC Justice Athar Minallah constituted a 14-member commission to examine the environmental issues of the federal capital and to suggest possible solutions.

In its report, submitted to the IHC, the commission’s members pointed out that “major projects are developed and approved in Islamabad without an environmental impact assessment [study]”.

The commission also pointed out that the scenic Zone III – along the Margalla Hills – had been subjected to a number of violations of the Islamabad’s master plan.

The report stated, “Ideally and primarily, the changes to a master plan should only happen over an extended time when it is gravely necessitated, but the CDA has so far made a number of major changes in the city’s master plan arbitrarily… now the federal capital is not what it was visualised by the Greek architecture firm, Doxiadis Associates, in 1960.”

The report said: “Construction of Monal, Capital View, La Montana restaurants at Pir Sohawa and Kashmirwalas restaurant at Daman-i-Koh, violated the regulations of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Zoning Regulations.”

According to the report, “Margalla Hills were transferred to CDA and were given the status of a wildlife sanctuary in 1960, and then was designated as a national park in 1980.”

It further states that allowing the construction of restaurants in the hills caused the accidental deaths of wild animals, an increase in vehicular and garbage-related pollution and had adverse effects on the flora and fauna.

“Development of hotels along Murree Road, including Best Western, Hotel Embassy Lodge, Islamabad Club, Gold Course, Grand Regency, Dreamland and Park Palace… [have] swallowed many green zones,” the report said.

The development of housing schemes near Rawal Lake, i.e. Rawal Town, Orchard Scheme, part of Banigala and the new chairlift project from Daman-i-Koh to Pir Sohawa also violates zoning regulations, the report says.

The report also calls the expansion of rural settlements and the setting up of a cement plant near the Margalla Hills in 1985 “a violation of the original master plan”.

In its suggestions, the commission recommended that a proper landfill must be prepared; encroachments on green belts and parks must be banned; the Margalla Hills National Park must be protected; environmental compliance must be enforced; the Environment Protection Ordinance (EPO) and the Pakistan-Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) must be empowered; housing societies must be asked to develop their own waste management systems and other types of waste should be managed accordingly.

The report also recommended strong liaison and coordination between environmental management agencies.

In 2011, several writ petitions were filed before IHC regarding environmental degradation of Islamabad due to the lax attitude of the Pak-EPA and the Capital Development Authority (CDA). In response, the court formed a commission to investigate and address the issues of implementation and enforcement of CDA and environmental laws.

The commission, appointed by Justice Athar Minallah on February 20, 2015, consisted of senior counsel Dr Parvez Hassan, Climate Change Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, Cabinet Division Secretary Raja Hasan Abbas, IUCN Country Representative Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, WWF DC Hammad Naqi Khan, Advocate Saima Amin Khawaja, SDPI Director Abid Qayyum Suleri, CDA Chairman Maroof Afzal, Pak-EPA DG Dr Muhammad Khurshid, Islamabad MNA Asad Umar, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Zulfikar Haider, senior journalist Talat Hussain and Nust professor Dr M.A. Baig.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2015

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