PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday directed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to ramp up efforts for removing encroachments along canals and rivers across the province and submit a report to the court.

A two-member bench comprising PHC Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed M Attique Shah directed that the anti-encroachment drive should be carried out across the board and no pick and choose policy should be adopted.

The bench observed that mafias had carried out massive encroachments along the rivers and canals. The bench wondered as to how permission had been granted to those elements for such illegal construction.

The PHC chief justice observed that rivers were polluted and it appeared that once the scenic Swat River was turned into a stream. He observed that the relevant officers were either not performing their duty or they were not provided with the required funds.

Chief secretary informs court about steps taken by the govt

The bench, known as green bench, was hearing different environment-related petitions filed by different lawyers.

Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz, Advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt, commissioners of Hazara and Malakand divisions, Riaz Mehsud and Zaheerul Islam, respectively, secretary environment and deputy commissioners of different districts turned up before the bench and put forward their respective viewpoints.

When the bench inquired from the chief secretary as to why permission was granted for raising structures along the rivers, he replied that several steps were taken for checking the problem but more efforts were required in that regard.

Dr Kazim said that in accordance with earlier orders of the court, they held several meetings and made different decisions. He said that a special meeting was convened regarding the famous Saiful Muluk Lake in Naran where there was serious problem of vehicle parking and transportation.

He said that mostly jeeps were used for transportation and there should be proper parking place for those vehicles. He said that they were also striving to control illegal boating and fishing in the lake.

The chief secretary said that around 30,000 trout fish were left in the Kunhar River and same practice would be adopted regarding the Swat River. He said that modern machinery was provided to tourist spots for sanitation purpose and the government was procuring more machines.

Riaz Mehsud claimed that for the last over a year they had activated Kaghan Development Authority and for overcoming problem of environmental degradation several meetings had been conducted.

He said that public washrooms were established in Kaghan and Naran along with placing trashcans there. He said that they were also carrying out awareness campaign for tourists to act like responsible citizens towards environment of those areas.

The bench observed that the deputy commissioners should be told that for waste disposal sites should be selected away from population. It observed that all the relevant officers should ponder together as to what steps should be taken for tackling those issues.

The bench directed the officials to adopt proper legal course while removing encroachments by first issuing notices to the relevant persons for removal of their illegal structures.

The bench observed that the officers should not feel pressurised from any quarter and if they faced any problem from influential elements they should let the court know.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021

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