KARACHI: An environmental tribunal has issued notice to the chief executive officer (CEO) of a private company on a complaint challenging construction of multi-storey residential-cum-commercial towers along the seafront allegedly without obtaining the mandatory approval from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa).
The tribunal headed by retired Justice Nisar Mohammad Shaikh also told Mohammad Hasnain, the CEO of M/s HMR Waterfront Private Limited, to file his reply till Jan 17.
Mohammad Iqbal Brohi, a resident of Defence Housing Authority, Phase-VI, had filed a complaint against the respondent under Section 26(2)(b) of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014 for carrying out construction work on the project without fulfilling legal requirements.
He submitted that the respondent construction firm was proponent of the project named ‘HMR Waterfront Development’, a residential-cum commercial multi-storey towers project, on which the construction work had commenced at the site on the Abdul Sattar Edhi Avenue, in Zone-E of the DHA Waterfront, in Phase-VIII.
A DHA resident challenges construction of multi-storey residential and commercial project without Sepa approval
He further submitted that the respondent had started construction work on the said project without getting any approval from the Sepa as required under Section 17 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014.
His counsel Irfan Halepota argued that it was mandatory under Section 17 of the Act that every proponent of a project should file an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) of the project with Sepa and get an approval from it before commencing the construction work.
He informed the tribunal that the complainant had sent a notice to Sepa under Section 26(3)(b) of the Act, 2014 to take notice of such an illegal activity, but no action had been taken so far by the agency.
The counsel added that vide a letter dated Aug 2, 2021 the respondent had stated that the initial/partial construction in question was a temporary site/sales office, which was started before the EIA process was initiated. Upon knowledge of the law, Act and the contents of the regulations, all the construction activities on the site were halted and had been stayed, the builder had added.
The counsel added that the construction carried out by the respondent was huge in nature, which was more than a booking office as some construction was more than the ground-plus one upper floor with further pillars on the roof, which showed the intention of the respondent to construct further upper floors on the roof.
He said the complainant along with his witnesses, Noor Ul Amin and Mohammad Bux, was passing through the site during the month of May 2021 where they saw construction was in progress on the site without any approval from Sepa, which was in violation of law and the complainant took pictures of the construction in the presence of witnesses.
The counsel argued that from the above omission on the part of the respondent, it was clear that he had committed a violation of Section 17 of the Act and was liable to be punished under that law.
Therefore, the tribunal was asked to take cognizance on the matter, issue a warrant against the respondent, who may be prosecuted and punished under the SEP Act, 2014 in the best interest of the justice.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2023