KARACHI, April 21: As people across the globe pledge to keep the environment unpolluted on the 37th Earth Day on Sunday, the government continues its drive to keep one of the arterial roads of the city denuded of trees.

A senior city government official told Dawn on Saturday that the traffic island along Sharea Faisal was being cleared of trees in preparation of the construction of a proposed 25-kilometre-long Karachi Elevated Expressway from M.T. Khan Road to Quaidabad, Landhi.

The city government held a public hearing on the controversial project three weeks back for the issuance of a no-objection certificate from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency.

Analysts acquainted with environmental laws insist that the city government should not have started the tree-clearing operation along Sharea Faisal without a final approval from the provincial environmental agency.

Members of civil society, professionals, conservationists and other stakeholders have been expressing concern over the elevated expressway project along Sharea Faisal, saying that it is an expensive and inefficient solution to the city’s traffic problems. They feel certain that the project would give rise to many environmental problems.

According to an official document, apart from trees on the northern and southern sides of the KEE corridor, there are about 1,100 medium to large and extra-large trees of gyacum, eucalyptus, neem, peple, yellow flower, kiker, mango, palm, red flower which would ultimately be uprooted.

The provincial minister for environment and alternative energy, Dr Sagheer Ahmad, conceded that the no-objection certificate for the elevated expressway had not yet been granted to the city government.

He said city government officials, who were coordinating with the provincial environmental protection agency, were ready to incorporate some changes in the elevated expressway construction plans. He hoped the project would get under way after addressing the grievances of the citizens.

The project director of the Tameer-i-Karachi programme, Rauf Akhtar Farooqi, said that the entire KEE corridor median was to be prepared for construction works. He added that the government had to hand over the construction site to the foreign party tasked to execute the project. He hoped that the construction of the expressway would get under way in May.

Answering a question, he said the city government had already submitted its comments to the provincial environmental protection agency.

Seeking to dispel the misgivings of stakeholders about the acquisition of government and private lands, including those of the Christian Cemetry and the Pakistan Railways, for the elevated expressway, he said there might be no need for the acquisition of additional land after a realignment of the corridor.

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