KARACHI: The Sindh Environmental Tribunal has asked the counsel for the residents and environmentalists to make rebuttal to the reply filed by a private firm constructing the controversial Malir Expressway project.

The tribunal, headed by retired Justice Nisar Ahmed Shaikh, asked advocates Kazim Hussain Mahesar and Muhammad Imran Kalmati to file the rebuttal on the next date and adjourned the hearing on appeals challenging the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) approval of the project.

The tribunal has adjourned the proceedings till Aug 17.

The location of the project, as per the EIA approval, is starting from right before the Jam Sadiq bridge on Korangi Road and run along the right bank of the Malir river through the Korangi and Malir districts, terminating on M-9 near DHA City outside Karachi.

On a previous hearing, Advocate Ravi Pinjani, who represented M/s Malir Expressway Limited, had filed a copy of the ‘fresh’ EIA report dated June 10 and signed by Sepa director general Muhammad Naeem Mughal, removing the appellants’ objection that the earlier EIA report was signed by a deputy director who got no legal authority to issue such an approval under the law.

Regarding the merits of the appeals, the counsel had argued that the appellants never raised any environmental concerns with regard to the environment of the metropolis.

He had objected that since the tribunal’s domain was environmental concerns therefore the appeals should be dismissed for lacking merit since the appellants did not highlight any environmental adversity in the proposed project.

The lawyer also challenged the appellants` locus standi, arguing that they were not directly aggrieved by the proposed project, while they did not highlight any adversity by the proposed cutting of trees or air pollution, etc, in their appeals.

He maintained that with the construction of the Malir Expressway “we will have primary advantage that western portion of the metropolis is connected through bypasses, but there is no such bypasses connectivity in the eastern corridor. Therefore, this project will connect the city with far-flung parts, including Korangi Industrial Area, the Defence Housing Authority and other areas on the outskirts”.

Advocate Pinjani argued that at present the average daily commuting time in the eastern corridor was 90 minutes, adding that with the construction of Malir Expressway this commuting time would be reduced to 30 minutes on an average day. “The overall impact is positive for the metropolis, since this is not any commercial or residential project, but a highway,” he claimed.

The company’s lawyer had also maintained that around 1,800 trees coming in the way of the expressway were to be cut down, but Sepa had advised to grow 19,000 trees with three rows of trees cover on either side of the expressway to maintain environmental balance in the area.

Lastly, the counsel had submitted that the project currently costing Rs27 billion, out of which 72 per cent is publically funded since its a consortium of banks and the Sindh government.

Opposing the appellants’ requests for granting an interim stay order against any construction activity at the site, Advocate Pinjani had cautioned that if due to any technical reasons the project was stayed the costs would spiral up given the growing rate of inflation.

He pleaded to dismiss the appeals for being devoid of merits.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2022

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