ISLAMABAD, Dec 24: The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) on Monday questioned the Capital Development Authority (CDA)’s ‘environmental approach’ when it came to allotting parking spaces on greenbelts to commercial high-rise projects.

In a statement to Dawn, Asif Shuja, the director general of Pak-EPA, criticised CDA’s poor environment policies. “Despite our concerns, the authority has let parking lots be constructed on different avenues, especially in Mauve Areas of sectors G-8, G-9 and G-10.”

He added: “We want existing parking lots on greenbelts to be removed, and a permanent ban placed on laying concrete on park areas and greenbelts, and erecting parking lots,” he added.

According to Mr Shuja, putting concrete on greenbelts also affects groundwater drainage.

“My department has taken up the matter with the chairman of CDA Syed Tahir Shahbaz, and we hope he will listen to our concerns,” he explained.

It is pertinent to mention that CDA charges parking fees from commercial plaza owners at a number of spots on greenbelts and itself has approved a number of parking lots in local parks.

An administrator of a semi-government institution told Dawn: “We have taken approval from the Capital Development Authority for establishing parking space in a greenbelt.”

The administrator insisted: “This is no violation of any environmental treaty or environmental regulation. We laid down concrete on greenbelts because our vehicles would get stuck in mud and grass during rainy weather so the alternative was suggested by our civil engineers to permanently lay concrete on the green area.”

The semi-government building administrator asserted: “We have never cut a single tree and instead placed flowerpots and added beauty to the parking place.”

In other cases, CDA’s regulations have been completely ignored by private organisations – in sector H-8, a leading private hospital has encroached on a public park for its parking.

Similarly, an official in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on the request of anonymity said: “The State Bank of Pakistan and Nadra are using greenbelts for parking while the CDA is completely ignorant about its responsibility.”

Mr Shuja pointed out: “The Islamabad police have established its pickets on greenbelts, which is also an issue of the environment and CDA should resolve it at the earliest.”

When Dr Kazim Niaz, the CDA environment wing member, was asked for his views, he replied: “We have issued notices to all institutions, private and semi-government, who are using greenbelts for parking plazas.”

He claimed that his department had issued notices to over 50 departments under Landscape Ordinance 1969, which prohibits interference with natural habitat of the capital city and deems any such interference a punishable act.

Dr Niaz added: “No institution has been able to furnish any approval with the CDA’s environment wing and we are probing how all of these commercial and even government buildings got approval for establishing parking spaces on greenbelts.”

He maintained that his department was already working on an inventory over the number of parking spaces established across the city by large-scale towers in Mauve Areas and different parts of the city.

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