KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday restrained the real estate concern from raising any construction on the flyover project near Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine in Clifton.
A single bench headed by Justice Munib Akhtar gave the direction while hearing a lawsuit filed by a resident of the neighbourhood.
The plaintiff, retired brigadier Inam Karim, represented by Advocate Naeem Iqbal Malik, stated that the defendant had announced in 2010 one of its projects – Bahria Town Icon Project – a 68-storey building housing several shopping malls, hotel, cinema and other facilities.
He said the huge project was initiated without taking into consideration serious adverse environmental effects.
The plaintiff pointed out that the project was located at the hub of 26th Commercial Street and Sharah-i-Firdousi that had predominant hustle and bustle with traffic plying round the clock.
He said that the defendant construction company in March suddenly closed a part of Sharah-i-Firdousi towards Bilawal Chowrangi and junction of the A.T. Naqvi roundabout without taking into consideration the fact that no road or street could be closed without prior approval of the authorities concerned.
The plaintiff said that the defendant started digging up the streets on “war-like footings” that led to a hue and cry by the general public also inviting media attention.
Later, he said, the construction company maintained that it intended to construct a couple of underpasses and a flyover in order to facilitate the people visiting the multi-storey project.
Brig Karim said that the construction of underpasses and flyovers was a municipal function that could only be undertaken either by the municipal authority, federal or provincial government.
He pointed out that the impugned project, being entirely financed and executed by the defendant firm at the estimated cost of Rs1.8 billion, was required for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as only an Initial Environmental Assessment (IEE) had been submitted for the project so far.
The plaintiff said that the KMC remained content with Initial Environmental Assessment (IEE).
Under Section 12 of the Environmental Protection Act, 1997 read with Schedule-II, the project ought to have been evaluated on the basis of an EIA prior to the commencement of the construction work, he argued.
He said that the impugned project was being constructed without ascertaining correct traffic forecast rather the proponent of the project was relying upon a Traffic Impact Assessment Report compiled by the defendant firm.
He said that there would be a direct impact on 26th Street which was already on full capacity, leading to traffic congestion at E-Street.
The plaintiff said major impact of the traffic, besides on 26th Street, would be followed by Sunset Boulevard and Khiyaban-i-Jami as the two traffic sections were already major bottlenecks, with heavy vehicular and logistic traffic.
Subsequently, he said, traffic from all sections/arteries would be diverted to the flyover route, indirectly affecting all arterial and collector roads.
He said that the flux of the thoroughfare traffic would resultantly be diverted to the residential area, ultimately causing serious noise and pollution in the residential blocks.
The plaintiff said the construction of the impugned project was continuing on avalanche speed and the project was likely to be completed within four months.
He said that up ahead on the prime land were located the historical Jahangir Kothari Parade and the Shiri Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple, and Bagh Ibne Qasim beyond it.
The plaintiff recalled that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had earlier raised alarm about the danger to the 150-year-old temple situated very close to the project site. Besides, he said, the proposed underpasses and pedestrian bridges would encroach on or damage the Bagh Ibne Qasim and the Jahangir Kothari parade (1919), which were protected under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act, 1994.
He said that the project would adversely affect residents of the area, consulates and visitors of the Clifton beach from all over the city, thus destroying the beauty of one of the few recreation spots available to the poor.
The plaintiff stated that the KMC, the proponent of the project, would be paying compensation for the damage caused to the civil structure in the locality and/or any incidental loss occurring during the construction of the impugned project out of public exchequer, resting no liability on the real estate firm, the major beneficiary of the impugned project.
The brigadier asked the court to restrain the construction firm from carrying out any construction work on the flyover project until its environment impact assessment was done as required under the law.