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ISLAMABAD, Oct 2: The Supreme Court ordered the government of Punjab on Tuesday to immediately halt its ambitious Lahore Canal Bank Road widening project because it had ignored the court’s earlier order that the green belt along the road should not be damaged.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani issued notices to the chief secretary and Advocate General of Punjab Ashtar Ausaf for Oct 16 with a direction to ask the chief minister why the court’s Sept 15, 2011, verdict was not being implemented in letter and spirit.

The court also indicated that it might initiate contempt proceedings against those responsible for not implementing the judgment which had held that the Bambawali-Ravi-Bedian (BRB) canal and the green belt on both sides of the Canal Road (from Jhallo Park till Thokar Niaz Beg) was a public trust and should be treated as Heritage Urban Park forthwith and declared so by an act to be passed by the provincial assembly.

The verdict also ordered the provincial government and TEPA (Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency) to ensure that minimum damage was caused to the green belt and each tree cut be replaced by four trees of the height of 6/7 feet and this replacement when commenced and completed shall be notified through press releases for information of general public.

Ms Imrana Tiwana, convenor of the Lahore Bachao Tehrik (LBT) and a petitioner, drew the attention of the court to the violation by the provincial government which, according to her, was widening the road at three points beyond the Dharampura underpass.

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan will represent the LBT when the case will be taken up on Oct 16.

Ms Tiwana said Dr Pervez Hassan, a mediator between the Punjab government and stakeholders in the matter, had also complained that his recommendations were not being followed by the provincial government.

An ecological assessment by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan had suggested in 2008 that Lahore Canal Bank had 14,873 trees and 6,557 shrubs like eucalyptus, poplar, jaman, mango, banyan, pipal, amaltas, bottle brush, etc.

These trees and plants contribute significantly towards purification and settle out, trap and hold particulate pollutant (dust, ash, pollen and smoke) which can damage human lungs.

Particulates are trapped and filtered by leaves, stems and twigs and washed to the ground by rain. With every loss of tree, a principal absorber of carbon dioxide is lost since a single tree absorbs 330lbs of carbon dioxide, 4lbs of ground level ozone and 3lbs of particulate matter.

In its Study of Ecology and Ecological Linkages of Lahore Canal Bank from Mustafabad Bridge to Thokar Niaz Beg, the WWF-Pakistan also identified 44 bird species like rose-ringed parakeets, common mynas, spotted owl and coppersmith barbets nesting in poplar, eucalyptus and pipal along the canal.

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