KARACHI: An environmental tribunal on Tuesday set aside a notice issued by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) for public hearing on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of a multistorey luxurious commercial-cum-residential project proposed to be built on the seafront by a private builder.

The three-member tribunal headed by its chairman retired Justice Nisar Muhammad Sheikh also directed the Sepa director general to issue a notice inviting the general public for hearing on the EIA of the proposed project.

While allowing the appeal, the tribunal’s chief ordered that the public hearing should be held within 15 days after publication of the notice in newspapers as provided under the law.

A tribunal has stopped the environmental watchdog from holding the public hearing scheduled for July 2

Altaf Hussain had filed an appeal and challenged a public notice issued by the Sepa chief on June 29 inviting the general public for hearing on the EIA of the multistorey project — HMR Waterfront Development — in Phase-VIII of Defence Housing Authority (DHA).

His counsel, Irfan Mir Halepota, informed the tribunal that the project was proposed on Abdul Sattar Edhi Avenue, which starts from Khayaban-i-Iqbal in Phase-V and ends at the 16th Street near the DHA Golf Club, but Sepa did not mention its exact location in the public notice.

The public hearing was scheduled for July 2, but Sepa failed to mention the place of the event, which has to be the launching site of the proposed project under the law.

He submitted that the proposed project would be built on Plot Numbers 1 to 16 on a total area measuring 836,730.36 square feet.

He added that it would comprise of 18 towers (two commercial and 16 residential) having basement and ground plus 31, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37 floors in each tower.

The total built-up area would be 13,200,203 square feet, according to the concept plan.

The counsel argued that Sepa in compliance with Section 17 of the Sepa Act, 2014 and Regulation 11 of the act that pertains to the review of initial environmental examination and EIA had got published the public notice.

The public notice did not comply with mandatory requirements of Regulation 11 under which the type of the project, its exact location, name and address of the proponent and the place at which the EIA of the project can be accessed are required to be provided, the counsel pointed out.

He added that the public notice merely mentioned that “project HMR Waterfront Development will be located at Abdul Sattar Edhi Avenue in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Phase VIII, Karachi”.

The counsel stated that the impugned notice also violated Regulation 11 (3), which required giving 15 days to the general public prior to holding of the meeting to review the EIA, as 14-day time had been given in the present case.

Besides violating the environmental law, Mr Halepota argued that the impugned public notice also infringed upon the fundamental Right to Information as bestowed under Article 19-A of the Constitution.

The counsel pleaded to declare the impugned public notice for public hearing on the EIA of the proposed project as unlawful.

In the appeal, it was requested to declare that Sepa was required to get published a fresh public notice in accordance with Regulation 11 of the Sepa Act, 2014.

It was also urged to restrain Sepa, its officers and agents from holding the proposed public hearing scheduled for July 2 till the final disposal of the appeal.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2021

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