PESHAWAR: A two-member Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday allowed a Chinese company to excavate sand and gravel from two spots identified by relevant officials for the ongoing construction of Suki Kinari hydropower project in Mansehra district provided it should not be having negative impact on environment.

The bench consisting of PHC Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed M Attique Shah directed provincial secretary environment and forestry, Mohammad Abid Majeed, to ensure that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industries and mines and mineral department had no objection to the excavation of raw material from the said two sites for the constriction work.

The bench also ordered that the environment secretary should act as focal person in the environment-related cases pending in the high court and all the other officials should cooperate with him in that regard.

The court had last year ordered the Chinese company, M/S Jiuzhou Hengton Machinery and Engineering, and relevant government officials to search for any alternate place for the purpose of excavating material to be used in the construction process, but should inform EPA and mines department about it.

Bench directs environment secretary to act as focal person in such cases

The PHC chief justice, while heading a ‘green bench’ dealing with cases related to environment last year, had taken exception to encroachments along major rivers in the province and ordered removal of all such encroachments. He had also banned excavation of construction raw material from the rivers.

The ban impose by the court also affected the Chinese company, which is part of the construction of Suki Kinari hydropower project, commonly called as SK Dam.

Through a petition, the company had requested the court to relax the ban for the ongoing construction work as the dam on the Kunhar River was of immense national importance.

Scores of officers turned up before the bench on Wednesday including Mr Abid Majeed, commissioners of Malakand and Hazara, Shaukat Yousafzai and Mutahir Zeb, respectively, Malakand Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Arif, Galiyat Development Authority Director General retired Captain Khalid Mehmood, Mines Director General Mohammad Naeem, EPA Director General Mohammad Anwar Khan and others.

Similarly, apart from the additional advocate general, Syed Sikander Hayat Shah, and several lawyers including Barrister Asadul Mulk, Barrister Waqar and Asghar Khan Kundi also appeared for their respective clients.

Mr Abid Majeed informed the bench that he had visited the site of SK Dam along with relevant officers of EPA, mines and industries departments in accordance with the order of the court.

He stated that the once completed, the dam would generate 884 megawatts of electricity. So far, he stated, around 70 per cent of the civil work and 49 per cent of the mechanical work had been completed. He pointed out that they identified four spots for excavation of raw material for the project.

While explaining the pros and cons of the four sites, he said that two of the sites were more feasible as those would not have negative environmental impact on the Kunhar River.

The bench directed him to apprise the management of SK Dam and if the EPA, mines and mineral and industries department had no objection over those sites, they should go ahead with excavation of raw material for the project.

The PHC chief justice observe that their prime objective was to safeguard natural resources and national assets. He observed that the court did not want to stop any project but at the same time it won’t allow any foreign contractor or company to come there and ruin the natural resources.

Addressing the secretary environment, the court observed that competent officers like him should come forward and play their role in saving environment from degradation. It added that now onward he should be the focal person in those issues.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2022

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