LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh on Thursday directed the Punjab government to take stern action against the industries violating environmental laws and also sought report about coal power plants’ effects on climate.
Hearing petitions relating to smog, the chief justice expressed concern over growing air pollution and shrinking greenbelts in urban areas.
“Do they really allocate space for greenbelts in Lahore’s master plan?” the infuriated chief justice asked the officials of government departments.
He also noted that the cities had gradually lost their boundaries due to poor planning of the authorities concerned.
An official of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) told court that the new master plan for Lahore was being drafted to bring about improvements. He said Rs500 million had been allocated for a four-year plan to plant trees in the city. He admitted that trees had not been planted along Ring Road.
Representing a petitioner, Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam submitted that the environment department took no effective step to monitor smog and its density. He said there had been no drop in smog but the department could present piles of papers to justify its performance.
Additional Advocate General Asif Cheema told the court that the chief minister was going to head a meeting of an environmental committee soon. He said the committee would set minimum standard of air quality.
He said the government sealed 747 brick kilns for not complying with the environmental regulations and they had been offered low markup loan through the Bank of Punjab to install zigzag technology.
Advocate Azhar Siddique, the counsel for another petitioner, pointed out that there was no mechanism to measure the effects of coal power plants in the province.
The law officer said Sahiwal coal power project had no serious effect on crops, however, there had been a slight decrease in production of cotton. He explained that the decrease in cotton production was in fact due to increase in production cost.
The chief justice observed that import of cotton from neighbouring countries was also the main reason behind the crisis. He said the government needed to offer subsidy to farmers in fertilizer and pesticides.
The counsel also referred to the industries burning tyres to produce furnace oil.
The CJ directed the government to identify such units in the province and take strict action against them. He also sought separate reports from all deputy commissioners and adjourned the case for 10 days.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2020