KARACHI: The Sindh Environmental Tribunal which had been set up under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act (Pepa) 1997 to hear complaints about pollution has not been working for around 20 months, it emerged on Sunday.
The tribunal has a chairman and two members but seats of the members have been vacant since long mainly because of lack of interest by provincial authorities, which were transferred the control of the tribunal after the passage of the 18th Amendment.
The Pepa was legislated for the protection, conservation, rehabilitation and improvement of the environment, prevention and control of pollution and promotion of sustainable development and under this law environmental protection tribunals were established across the country in 1997.
The Sindh tribunal has not been working since the end of contract of its chairperson, Ashraf Jahan, in July 2012. Besides, the authorities concerned have not been able to fill the post that fell vacant after the contract of technical member Dr Samiuzzaman expired in July 2010, while tenure of legal member, Abdul Karim Memon, also ended in June last year.
After much delay, the district and sessions judge Rashida Asad was finally appointed the chairperson for three years period in July 2013 but it failed to make the tribunal functional because it was still short of two members.
As per Section 20 (3) of Pepa, “for every sitting of the tribunal, the presence of the chairperson and not less than one member shall be necessary”.
Under the law, the tribunal has a chairman, who is qualified for appointment as a judge of the high court, and two members to be appointed by the federal government and at least one of them should be a technical member with suitable professional qualifications and experience in environmental studies.
An official of the tribunal said that formerly, it was the responsibility of federal law ministry to appoint the tribunal members. However, under the 18th Amendment, it was now a subject of provincial government, which was taking too much time to finalise legal formalities in this regard, he added.
The provincial assembly had passed an environmental bill in February this year but, the official said, now the provincial authorities had to frame procedural rules for the tribunal and then to appoint the members.
Initially, the office of the tribunal was set up in Phase-V of Defence Housing Authority and then it was moved to Gulistan-i-Jauhar near Met office in the mid of last year but since it was not easily accessible, it was moved into the State Life building on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road.
The official said that 13 complaints and three appeals regarding pollution were pending trial before the tribunal and dozens of new complaints were set to be admitted for hearing when the tribunal became finally functional.