KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday directed the counsel for the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) and Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to file a complete list of commercial entities operating on the Seaview beach.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi said that a comprehensive report of the entities, operational or likely to be operational, from Nishan-i-Pakistan Park to Clock Tower must be submitted by the lawyers for the CBC and the DHA within 30 days.

The bench directed that a complete description of commercial entities with their ownership to be specified in the report.

The SHC passed these directives during the hearing of a petition filed in February by some individuals and non-governmental organisations against alleged commercialisation of the seafront from Nishan-i-Pakistan Park to Village Restaurant (Now Clock Tower) in the Phase-V of the DHA.

Cantt board, DHA told to file details of all operational and soon-to-be operational commercial entities in four weeks

The petitioners had submitted that an environmental tribunal had already set aside the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) approval accorded by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to the proposed commercialisation.

They further submitted that the CBC planned to commercialise Seaview beach and the project proposed to be spread over 20 acres, which entailed development of one-km-long stretch of Seaview beach while mushrooming of eateries would be allowed to construct small and large restaurants and the project in question would certainly restrict the fundamental rights of citizens to enjoy beach as the planned facilities were meant for well-to-do population only.

The petitioners had asked the court to declare Seaview beach from Nishan-i-Pakistan to Park Clock Tower an open natural beach and free from all artificial modifications, development and construction and also sought directive for removal of rubble and garbage dumped on the beach without approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Earlier, the CBC and DHA in their counter affidavit had argued that they were not carrying out any commercial development on Seaview beach and only plantation process was being undertaken for beautification of the beach.

They further contended that no restaurant was functioning on the beach and in order to facilitate public entertainment only small kiosks were operating, which were controlled by the DHA and maintained by tenants of such kiosks.

They maintained that such kiosks had no effect on the environment.

Sepa in its comments contended that the CBC had voluntarily filed IEE to Sepa and the same was approved accordingly and maintained that the proposed project was not a mega scheme, thus not falling in EIA category and there was no legal requirement for conducting environmental assessment.

It further submitted that the environmental tribunal had remanded the matter of IEE to Sepa with directions to decide the same afresh in accordance with law.

The petitioners in a rejoinder to counter affidavit of the CBC argued that the IEE report negated disclaimer of the CBC carrying out any commercial activity and it had been shown that this project was part of a long-standing strategy of the DHA to commercially develop Seaview beach.

They contended that the IEE for the commercial exploitation of entire Clifton waterfront was prepared in 2008 and it was highly likely that the CBC and the DHA would eventually charge an entry fee to allow access to the area in question as this had been a normal practice in many amenity areas of the DHA, including Zamzama Park and Nisar Shaheed Park while hockey stadium in Khadda Market and the football ground at Rahat park had been contracted out to private businesses.

They argued that the CBC’s own proposal showed variety of construction activities, including pavement, two beach decks, artificial wood flooring seven restaurants, 15 tuck shops and 15 hawkers and street stalls to be built within the project area.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022

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