Environmental Rights to Ravi Riverfront City — Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

October 10, 2021

Recognition of Environmental Rights

In a “historic breakthrough” the UN Human Rights Council has finally recognized people’ access to clean & healthy environment as a fundamental right on planet Earth. “This has life-changing potential in a world where the global environmental crisis causes more than nine million premature deaths every year,” says David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

The vote passed with overwhelming support, despite criticism in the lead-up from some countries, notably the United States and Britain. But recognition of environmental rights paralleled to human rights certainly complements the global fight against climate change and its devastating consequences.

Nobel Prize awarded for Environmental Work

The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics have been awarded to three scientists for their work to understand complex systems, such as the Earth’s climate. Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi were announced as the winners at an event in Stockholm. It is for the first time, scientists have been credited for their contribution work to environment. In fact, the award comes at times when world leaders are preparing for a critical UN climate conference, known as COP26, to be held in Glasgow this November.

It is incredibly difficult to predict the long-term behaviour of complex physical systems such as the climate. Computer models that anticipate how it will respond to rising greenhouse gas emissions are, therefore, crucial for understanding global warming as a planetary emergency. And, research by Manabe and Hasselmann led to computer models of the Earth’s climate that can predict the impact of global warming.

Real estate transactions outside FATF Regime

According to a news report despite the Designated Non-Financial Business and Professions (DNFBPs) initiative, a lot of transactions in the real estate sector still take place in the grey area, which may pose serious challenges to the system. As a senior government official reveals “there are many housing societies and market players who are trading open files worth Rs1 million to Rs10m through open certificates and affidavits in the open market and remain totally outside the regulated regime.”

Generally such practices take place between property dealers and their clients, who trade open files, but now well-known housing societies and developers has also adopted this business model. It has serious ramifications as such transactions are all in cash and they do not generate revenue for government. More importantly such transactions do not follow FATF’ conditions to meet international compliance standards.

Forest Blazes in KPK

It is really surprising in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Billion Tree Tsunami took off, some 815 acre of forest land has been gutted in different fire blazes during the year 2019-20. That was conveyed by the provincial forestry department to the KPK assembly. The forestry department further elaborated that 12 districts in northern KPK has recorded 58 incidents of forest fires during 2019-20.

However, several opposition members have challenged above numbers and insisted that the incidents are far more than what has been reported. An MPA of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal even alleges that fire forests were not accidental and instead, they’re deliberately caused to hide corruption in the afforestation program of the department. However, it is really unfortunate on one hand the provincial government was planting saplings under the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation program, but on the other the forests were felling in different parts of the province.

“Ravi Riverfront Projects benefits only Land Developers”

The recent observation of the Lahore High Court that the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project apparently is for the benefit of land developers serves as an eye-opener for the federal and Punjab government’ bigwigs. During the court proceedings, Justice Shahid Karim also regretted that no arrangements had been made by the Punjab government to allocate alternative land for agricultural purposes. He further observed that the conversion of agricultural land into the housing project was unjustified as the country was already vulnerable to food insecurity.

Moreover, the High Court mentioning gross irregularities in the project observed that the master plan was approved by the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Authority (RUDA) in December 2020 whereas the land acquisition notification was issued prior to it on Oct 6, 2020. Besides, the forest department also extended its reservation in the court that the Ravi Riverfront Project would result in felling of the trees as well for the housing buildings.

Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar Webpage

The State Bank of Pakistan has launched a dedicated webpage for promoting Mera Pakistan, Mera Ghar – government’s flagship markup subsidy scheme for affordable & low-cost house financing as well as construction financing. The webpage covers comprehensive information about the scheme including eligibility criteria, tenor of the loan, maximum amount of loan, markup rates to be charged, maximum list of documents required and subsidy being provided by the government. Through this page, potential applicants can also access websites of participating banks directly wherein loan application forms under various categories can be downloaded.

The government, in coordination with the SBP, took several measures to boost housing and construction in the country but the data shows the sector still needs special attention to take solid shape reflecting high activities in the sector.

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