KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday extended for another week its stay order restraining the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from carrying out work on the two nuclear power plants project in Karachi without adhering to environmental laws after partly hearing the PAEC counsel who said that the project was duly approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar and comprising Justice Shahnawaz Tariq was hearing a petition challenging the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa), which approved the two plants.
The petition, filed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Dr Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, Dr A.H. Nayyar and Arif Belgaumi, named the PAEC, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), Sepa, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pepa) and the environment and alternative energy department of Sindh as respondents.
The bench had earlier asked the proponents of the project not to begin work unless they met the requirements set under Section 12 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014 and put the project to the EIA as prescribed under the law.
The PAEC recently started preparing sites for the two nuclear power plants — K-2 and K-3 — adjacent to the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (Kanupp). Besides, subsequent plans for two more plants — K-4 and K-5 — were also under consideration.
According to the petitioners, the reactors had purportedly been designed and would be built by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on a design known as ACP-1000, which was not operating even in China.
They said the EIA submitted by the PAEC to the then provincial environmental protection agency was in gross violation of the law because its review was carried out by Pepa without inviting public participation and relevant information was kept secret from the public at large in a highly surreptitious manner.
The petitioners requested the court to declare the EIA and its subsequent review as illegal and of no legal effect and direct the PAEC to submit a fresh EIA to Sepa and Pepa to carry out a well-publicised public review of it in accordance with Section 17 of the 2014 Act.
They also requested the court to restrain the respondents from carrying out work on the nuclear power plants till the outcome of the review of the new EIA and evacuation plan.
On Friday, PAEC counsel Anwar Mansoor Khan told the judges that France was also using the same technology and providing over 400 megawatts to its neighbouring countries.
He said that the project was aimed at providing electricity to people in Karachi on a priority basis and part of the governments’ policy to make the electricity available in every part of the country.
The counsel said that all national and international security concerns were deliberated upon before the approval of the project.
He also told the judges that certain facts could not be brought on record in view of the sensitivity of the project and many matters were not being made public by the government due to strategic reasons.
The counsel said that a guideline already available to ensure life and property of the people was strictly being followed by the government.
Besides, he said, a licence would be required to make the power plants function after the completion of the project.
While Advocate Khan was still on his feet, the bench rose for the day, adjourning the matter to Dec 18.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2014