KARACHI: While seeking details from landowning organisations on the roads which have been commercialised in their respective jurisdictions, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has warned the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) and the landowning organisations that they must not allow any ‘development’ unless approval is granted by Sepa.

The Sepa letter dated March 26 has been sent to all cantonment boards, Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Karachi Development Authority (KDA) as well as the SBCA.

The step, the letter says, has been taken in the light of the Supreme Court orders passed in January this year and the report submitted by the commission on water and sanitation in which Karachi-specific recommendations have been given as improvement initiatives requiring longer period.

“In pursuance of (these) orders, Sindh Environmental Protection Agency has been mandated to ensure that the city of Karachi is restored to that of its original master plan.

Warns against allowing development without its approval

“The department hereby requires a ‘progress report’ from all concerned landowning organisations regarding the status of compliance to the orders of the Supreme Court,” the letter says.

It calls upon landowning organisations as well as the SBCA to ensure filing of environmental assessment reports by developers under Sepa rules as recommended by the water commission in its final report.

The Sepa letter written to the DHA also “demands an urgent submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a traffic management plan for all commercialised roads in its jurisdiction, including the EIA report of DHA Phase 8 as well as the projects under the DHA Water Front Development Scheme.

“This exercise is essentially to be achieved to explore way forward towards addressing further construction on the commercialised roads and the overall sustainability of the province in general and the city resources in particular,” it says.

The letter, however, also brings into question Sepa’s own writ, authority and performance when it says that “the current chaotic condition on the commercial roads of Karachi demands a review of the road commercialisation/land use change policy whereby a number of roads were commercialised without taking Sepa on board.

“It may be reminded that the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 as well the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014 both have delineated that every change in land use must be preceded by an Environmental Impact Assessment in which the cumulative impact of all alterations in land use will have to be clearly evaluated.

“The policy adopted for strip commercialisation is against the principles of environmental sustainability since it is neither socially nor environmentally acceptable. The commercialisation policy should have been preceded by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which is a critical step since it concerns the future development of Karachi.

“The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency brings to your notice that the role of this agency in the indiscriminate change of land use, commercialisation and construction has been ignored, as well as densification of roads has been undertaken without a master plan. As such a stage has been reached that majority of plots on the commercial roads are being converted into commercial ones.”

The letter also highlights the disaster spelled by city’s haphazard densification and says that this process has been inattentive to the impact of development of one section on the other and brought about at the cost of Karachi’s meagre resources.

“Majority of the projects have been completed in violation to the approved plans because there is no provision for parking and the space for parking has been unauthorisedly allotted for more commercial activities in the basements.

“Development activities with the current approach are both faced with adverse impact arising from deficiencies in infrastructure and other facilities in the rest of Karachi.

“The demand for utilities, such as water, sewage disposal, electricity and gas has increased considerably for which there is no plan for augmentation. The water supply and sewerage system both have outlived their age and have no capacity for taking extra burden.

“The sewerage system simply does not exist in most areas while the lack of storm-water drains is creating submergence issues with every heavy rainfall. The city residents are already protesting against the shortage of water, but the authorities (SBCA, KDA, KMC, CBC and DHA) seem handicapped for inadequacies in Karachi’s infrastructure,” the letter says.

It might be recalled here that it’s the second time Sepa has sought details about commercialisation of roads. A similar letter was sent to the organisations concerned in 2017.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2019


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