PESHAWAR: A two-member bench of Peshawar High Court has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct physical inspection of the sites where two commercial plazas are under construction allegedly in a forested and residential area in Abbottabad Cantonment.
The bench comprising Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Mussarat Hilali directed the director general of EPA that after conducting the inspection written comments should be filed in reply to a writ petition filed by Mahmood Ahmad Aslam, an inhabitant of the area.
The bench, which is called ‘green bench’ as it hears cases related to environmental degradation, fixed April 2 for next hearing with the direction to maintain status quo till that date.
The petitioner, who appeared in person, said that Abbottabad Cantonment Board and a resident Ali Asghar Khan simultaneously started construction of plazas last year on the Pine View Road in Abbottabad, a densely forested as well as residential area. He claimed that the construction of the two plazas would leave negative impact on the environment.
The petitioner said that Ali Asghar was constructing the plaza on a plot inside his residence in a residential area whereas the cantonment board was constructing it in a tree filled ravine or rain water course. He pointed out that under the law construction of commercial plazas in the residential areas of Abbottabad Cantonment was banned.
Petitioner says construction of plazas will affect environment of the area
The petitioner stated that as per Section 21(b) of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, PEPA of 1997, he wrote to the director general of EPA, Dr Bashir Khan, to ask builders to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which was mandatory as per Section 12 of PEPA 1997. However, he added, the director general gave verbal no-objection certificate to builders following which he on April 16, 2014, sent him another thirty days notice to stop the violation.
The petitioner said that in April 2014 inhabitants of the area approached Abbottabad circuit bench of Peshawar High Court which asked them to approach the Environmental Protection Tribunal in Peshawar. The citizens subsequently filed their petition with the Environmental Tribunal of Peshawar.
He claimed that on Nov 19, 2014, the revenue officer wrote in his assessment report to commissioner that 100 feet water course was passing along the Pine View Road and construction of plaza would cause floods in the low lying areas of the city.
The petitioner stated that as the case continued to linger on before the tribunal due to the delaying tactics used by the builders, he approached the high court informing it about the delay following which the court directed the tribunal to decide the case before Feb 22, 2015. However, he said that the environmental tribunal on Feb 4, 2015, wrote in its order that it could not hear the case any longer due to the enactment of the new Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection Act.
Published in Dawn March 5th , 2015