KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday issued notices to the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), Defence Housing Authority (DHA), environment secretary and others on a petition filed against alleged commercialisation of the Seaview beach.

The Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment and around 10 residents of Clifton and DHA filed the petition before the SHC.

They submitted that an environmental tribunal had set aside the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) approval accorded by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to the proposed commercialisation of the seafront from Nishan-i-Pakistan Park to Village Restaurant (Now Clock Tower) in Phase-V of DHA.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi put the provincial secretary of environment, climate change & coastal development, Sepa, CBC, DHA and Sindh advocate general on notice.

It would not benefit people of Karachi if entire coastline is commercialised, observes SHC

The court asked its office to fix the matter again after two weeks.

During the hearing, Justice Rizvi remarked that it would not benefit the people of Karachi if the entire coastline was commercialised.

Petitioners’ counsel Zubair Abro argued that the CBC had planned to commercialise the Seaview beach and the project proposed to be spread over 20 acres, which entailed development of one-km-long stretch of Seaview.

He stated that as per the plan, eight restaurants, 15 tuck shops and 40 hawkers and street stalls would be built within the project area. It was actually part of a plan to commercialise the beach and the CBC and DHA had been attempting this from many years, he added.

The counsel submitted that the respondents had allowed construction of a shopping mall on an amenity plot near the beach and also commercialised an area adjacent to it for private car parking while the other side was being used to discharge untreated waste into the sea.

The lawyer said the area between Nishan-i-Pakistan Park and Village Restaurant was open for citizens, but for quite some time various eateries were allowed to construct small and large restaurants there.

He argued that the project in question would certainly restrict the fundamental rights of the citizens to enjoy the beach as the planned facilities were meant for only well-to-do population.

He contended that the IEE report was a sham as no assessment was carried out and most of the data in the report was copied from other projects situated in different parts of the city especially Malir district.

The petitioners’ counsel informed the bench that a group of concerned citizens had challenged the IEE report before an environmental tribunal, which had set it aside in November last year.

However, he submitted that despite the order of the tribunal, construction work was still going on at the project site and the petitioners had approached Sepa in this regard, but to no avail.

The CBC is acting in violation of Section 17 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014 as it required an IEE approval or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of a project before commencing construction and operation of the project, the counsel maintained.

He argued that the Clifton beach was the property of the provincial government as provided under Article 172 of the Constitution since the area reclaimed from sea.

He said neither the Sindh government had transferred the beach to the CBC nor any agreement for the proposed project was executed.

The petitioners pleaded to declare Seaview from Nishan-i-Pakistan Park to Clock Tower as an open natural beach free from all artificial modifications, development and constructions.

They also asked the SHC to declare the proposed project illegal in the absence of an EIA and direct the CBC to restore the beach to its prior pristine, natural condition and remove all garbage and rubble dumped on the beach.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2022

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