Residents oppose Malir Expressway project at Environmental Impact Assessment hearing

Published March 10, 2022
A map showing the proposed route of the Malir Expressway. — Photo courtesy: Malir Expressway EIA report
A map showing the proposed route of the Malir Expressway. — Photo courtesy: Malir Expressway EIA report

KARACHI: Residents along the proposed Malir Expressway project rejected the provincial government plan at a public hearing organised by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to discuss its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on Wednesday.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had in December 2020 laid the foundation stone of the Rs27.5 billion and 39-km-long project that would start from KPT Interchange, Qayyumabad and terminate at Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway near Kathore.

The EIA report of the project was prepared by the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) and the EMC Pakistan, a private consultancy firm.

The residents present in the public hearing chanted slogans like “Malir Expressway na manzoor” (Malir expressway unacceptable), “Malir ki tabahi na manzoor” (destruction of Malir unacceptable) and “Mahol ki tabahi na manzoor” (destruction of environment unacceptable) as official representatives left the meeting without properly addressing to their queries.

Sepa fails to address concerns over damage to climate, ecology; says revision to mitigate damages still under way

Raising serious concerns on the EIA report, they termed the hearing a mere joke and said that it was held just for the sake of documentation.

They alleged that the ‘facts’ included in the report were not based on ‘ground realities’.

Social activist and wildlife photographer Salman Baloch claimed that the report presented by Sepa was far from reality.

Referring to the ecological data provided by Sepa that suggested that no species were found in a number that could concern the ecology, he said that more than 10 mammal and 12 reptile species were found in the area, including snakes.

The residents said that Section 17(1) of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014 suggests that no construction could be commenced unless the proponent had received an EIA report, but the work on more than 15 kilometres of the project had already begun.

They alleged that the ground levelling work had been started and the greenbelt was being destroyed.

Responding to the allegations, Malir Expressway project director Niaz Soomro said that no greenbelt was being affected under the project, and the machinery at the site was there to remove debris and industrial wastes.

Aadil Ayub, a member of NGO Climate Action Pakistan raised concerns about the climate destruction that would happen due to the carpeting of asphalt and use of concrete in the construction.

He said there was a high probability of heatwaves hitting the city due to concrete structure that could affect the overall environment of Karachi.

A participant also raised concern whether the project was actually for the people of Karachi or just to support the real estate developers, who had constructed societies, including Bahria Town Karachi and DHA City, on the outskirts of the city.

Giving a presentation, EMC environmental engineer Syed Omer Arif said that the 38.75km-long and 30-metre-wide expressway would cost Rs27.5bn and would be completed in 30 months.

A table showing possible affected structures discussed that earlier it was projected that 366 residential properties, 31 shops and other commercial properties, 14 religious structures; including mosques and shrines, three cattle sheds, four tube wells and as many government properties, including a cricket ground, would be affected.

“But, Sepa worked to mitigate and cut the damage to eight to 10 residential properties, and the revisions are still being done,” he said.

The report also mentioned that 900 skilled and non-skilled people would be employed and 50 per cent of the employment would be given to the locals.

It maintained that out of 1,000 acres of the required land, only 100-150 acres were private property.

The residents and activists accused Sepa of dishonesty, saying it shared 800-page report and called the meeting in 10 days, that too in the English language, which was a barrier for local residents as most of them were not familiar with it.

They also claimed that the website of Sepa was down for 10 days after it uploaded the report on its website to make it public.

The protesting residents presented a 39-page report titled ‘Objections to the EIA for the construction of Malir Expressway’, which was acknowledged and signed by Sepa deputy director Imran Sabir.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2022

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