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ISLAMABAD: Even after an environmental protection tribunal cleared the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) project of expanding the Ataturk Avenue last month, the civic agency can still not start the project as it has not been able to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA).

The project was started last year and became controversial when the CDA chopped off over 140 trees that led to the filing of a case by Pak-EPA against the CDA in an environment protection tribunal.

The expansion of the busy Ataturk Avenue, also known as Embassy Road, was started in August last year and was to be completed by August this year at the cost of Rs235 million.

According to the PC-1, a 24-foot lane and a nine-foot shoulder will be added to the existing road and a bridge and two box culverts will also be constructed.

After clearance from Pak-EPA, CDA will expand the road from Khayaban-i-Soharwardi to Ayub Chowk, near Marriot Hotel and from Ayub Chowk to Margalla Road in the next stage.

CDA officials told Dawn that after the controversy regarding the cutting of trees, the civic agency has left the project almost unattended for the past year and that work has not been started yet.

“Our officers did not take interest in the project and the CDA did not vigorously plead the case before the tribunal. Despite this, the tribunal decided in our favour last month and we have not been able to complete the formalities so far,” a CDA engineer said.

He said Pak-EPA’s NOC is mandatory for starting the project and after the tribunal’s decision, when CDA approached the environment agency, it sought a report for tree plantation details.

However, the civic agency’s environment wing is yet to furnish this detail which is causing further delays in starting the already stalled projects.

CDA spokesperson Malik Saleem said the tribunal has already decided in favour of CDA and that the formalities will soon be completed for getting the EPA NOC.

“We have planted some 3,000 trees to replace the ones chopped off and we are serious about starting the project,” he said.

Embassy Road witnesses routine traffic congestions, particularly during office timing as it is used to access government offices located in the Red Zone such as the Supreme Court, Election Commission, Parliament, the National Database and Registration Authority headquarters etc.

The road is also used as a shortcut to Blue Area from Khayaban-i-Soharwardi.

“In case of further delays, the civic agency will have to bear the escalated cost of the project and it should therefore be started at its earliest,” an official of the engineering wing said.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2018