ISLAMABAD: Work on the G-7 and G-8 underpass has not progressed for the last month because the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has yet to satisfy the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA).

The Pak-EPA suspended the project’s environment impact assessment (EIA) last month, directing the CDA to halt construction until it restores permission, which is subject to removing several objections.

CDA officials said Pak-EPA has objected to the authority setting up a camp office on a greenbelt, and because the CDA did not form an environment committee.

Sources said the EIA has yet to be restored. The CDA is still slowly executing the project on site, including carrying out earth work and laying down pipelines.

Nine trees have also been felled in the project area, which the CDA has claimed will be transplanted elsewhere.

CDA waits for restoration of permission from environment body

Under the Rs395 million project, the CDA will connect G-7 with G-8 through this underpass which will also ease traffic on Faisal Avenue.

Sources said that the project has been delayed in commencing properly and if the necessary steps are not taken to obtain a go-ahead from the Pak-EPA, the contractor could demand escalation and idle charges from the authority.

When contacted, CDA Member Engineering Humayun Akhtar said the authority had submitted its para-wise comments in response to the Pak-EPA’s objection.

“We have removed their objections and a few days ago a meeting was also held with them,” he said, adding that he was hopeful that the EIA would be restored without delay.

When asked about the trees, Mr Akhtar said nine pine trees fall in the area where the underpass is to be built. He said the trees will be transplanted and the authority has been in touch with the Lahore Parks and Horticulture Authority about hiring a transplant machine.

He said the CDA has already planted 1,000 trees near the project site to counter the cutting down of around 34 trees, including the nine pines. When asked, he said not a single pine tree has been felled.

Pak-EPA Director General Farzana Altaf Shah could not be reached for comment but in her last conversation with Dawn on Nov 20 she had said the CDA had set up a camp office on a greenbelt and not deputed an environmentalist on site or formed a committee.

“They are in touch with us and as soon as they provide us the details we will restore the EIA,” she had said, adding according to the EIA 30 trees would be cut down during the underpass’ construction.

She added that the CDA is directed to take every possible measure to save the adult pine trees and if imperative, then these trees should be transplanted.

The underpass project has already been delayed. The CDA awarded the contract for the project in August, and work formally began two months later on Oct 17 when the project was inaugurated by Minister for Interior retired Brig Ijaz Shah.

According to the PC-I, the project was supposed to be completed within a year’s time. However, CDA officials said that if the issues with the Pak-EPA are not cleared soon, it will be difficult for the contract to complete the underpass within the stipulated time.

The construction of two underpasses on Faisal Avenue connecting G-7 with G-8 and F-7 with F-8 was approved in 2014. Five years later, the CDA is only executing the G-7 and G-8 underpass.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019