ISLAMABAD: A joint inquiry team of the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Lahore in a report to the Supreme Court has highlighted serious lapses, illegalities and irregularities by government departments in the process of setting up two cement factories in Chakwal.
On Sept 14, a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that had taken suo motu notice over the drying up of Katas Raj, had ordered the inquiry to ascertain any lapse or favouritism on part of the officers of the Industries Department or other relevant departments in the setting up of D.G. Khan Cement and Bestway Cement factories.
The ACE director general constituted a five-man committee headed by Regional Director Abdul Shakoor that examined the requirement of the no-objection certificate (NOC) and subsequent role of different government departments.
The committee collected records from the officers, including the district government Chakwal, industries, environment, mine and mineral departments and the cement factories concerned.
The report alleged that D.G. Khan Cement Company and Bestway Cement Company were facilitated in establishing the factories.
Deliberate delay in issuing notification declaring negative areas in the district amounted to mala fide intent of govt depts, says ACE report submitted to SC
“Had there been a timely decision by the departments regarding declaring the negative areas, there would have been no question of setting up of these industries between 2003 and 2008,” the report said. Most of the districts in Punjab had declared their negative areas in 2005-06 except Chakwal which was deliberately delayed to provide space to the owners for setting up of the cement plants, it added.
But on March 8, 2018, the secretary Punjab Industries, Commerce and Investment Department notified the negative areas in Chakwal suggesting the cement factories were located in the negative areas.
“Thus it can be safely concluded that deliberate delay in issuing notification to declare negative areas amounts to mala fide intent of the departments,” the report alleged, adding the very existence of the cement factories in the negative areas itself was a sheer violation which required action under the law against all the officers/officials of the departments.
The report also alleged that Bestway Cement Factory situated at Choa Saidan Shah got approved its site plan/map from the tehsil municipal administration (TMA) Choa Saidan Shah during the construction of the factory. The officers of the municipal committee Kallar Kahar failed to approach the owners despite the fact that the construction of the factory building was in progress and they caused loss of millions of rupees to the government by not paying the fee for the approval of the site plan.
Likewise, all the cement factories did not furnish the land use conversion fee as per Rule 9 (commercialisation charges) under the Punjab Local Government Rules 2004, which was 20pc of the total land use value.
The report said D.G. Khan Cement primarily acquired 1,022 kanals and 13 marlas out of which 42 kanals and seven marlas were leased out to Nishat Shuaiba Paper Products Company for the establishment of a paper sack plant without approval or observing codal formalities.
The same cement factory did not provide the statement/record deliberately despite being bound during the site visit of the factory by the inquiry team. Afterwards, the remaining 980 kanals and six marlas was mortgaged for loan purposes.
During the scrutiny/examination of record, the report said, it transpired that the land for the establishment of Bestway and D.G. Khan cement factories had been acquired through the industries department on the excuse of public purpose. Massive illegalities were committed in acquiring the land of private people such as acquisition of 237 kanals and 15 marlas which was common land such as graveyards, public passages that could not be acquired as per the Punjab Land Acquisition Rules 1983.
The report also cited an Aug 18, 2004, letter of the Environment Department to the secretary industries stating the proposed cement plants were being set up at sites having most populous villages with a rich socio-cultural heritage and a bio-diverse ecology.
But the then secretary industries, commence and investment department showed favouritism for the establishment of the factories.
The environment impact assessment (EIA) report furnished by the two factories was not reviewed by the environment department which was mandatory. The record showed that on Sept 6, 2004, the D.G. Khan Cement Factory was under construction when it applied for the environmental permission.
Currently, the cement factories are emitting effluents, polluted water etc., which effect badly on the environment and health of the inhabitants. The Bestway Cement had to plant 30,000 trees of minimum height of six to seven feet especially of indigenous species in and around the plant within six months which was not done.
Likewise the D.G. Khna Cement had submitted that 6,000 trees had been planted and about 60,000 to 70,000 trees would be planted in future. But at the site no such trees were seen and no further trees were planted.
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2018