Malir Expressway’ Controversy to Loss by Pine Nuts Forest Fire; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

29 May 2022

Reply sought from SEPA to halt Malir Expressway Project

The Environmental Protection Tribunal this week directed the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) Director General and M/s Malir Expressway Limited to file their objections to an application seeking a restraining order against the construction of the Malir Expressway project. The tribunal, headed by retired Justice Nisar Ahmed Sheikh, asked the law officer for SEPA and counsel for M/s Malir Expressway Limited to file the objections till June 1.

Malir Expressway
Malir Expressway; More Baneful than Beneficial

The tribunal was hearing identical appeals filed by Malir residents and the Indigenous Rights Alliance Karachi. The appellants said that being concerned residents of Malir district, they attended the EIA hearing and submitted their written objections to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report during the public hearing and also raised multiple objections to the feasibility of the project, assessment, findings and recommendations in the report. The appellants submitted that SEPA accorded the EIA approval on April 6 to the Malir Expressway Ltd in alleged violations of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014 and SEPA (Environmental Review of IEE and EIA) Regulations, 2014. They pleaded the tribunal to declare that the EIA approval accorded by SEPA to the projects as unlawful and without authority.

Baluchistan’ Pine Nuts Forests Fire cost Rs. 3.5 billion

The unabated fire that turned chilgoza pine trees — the green gold –of Shirani district of Baluchistan into ashes and smoke, has snatched the livelihood of the local community, which earned nearly Rs3.5 billion annually through the sale of chilgoza nuts. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, which has been implementing a Global Environment Facility project for the past four years on the conservation of chilgoza forests and the introduction of nut processing to enhance the value of the nuts for the communities, says this year the fire has snatched the main source of income of many people living in the area.

Blaze in Baluchistan’ forests exposes Pakistan’ incapability to cater Wildfires

These forests are unique as they are home to rare wild animals, source of livelihood for 90% local community and nurture the indigenous flora and fauna, says the UN organization. Now as the forest fire is almost over, the next immediate step is to carry out a damage assessment and prepare a restoration plan. According to government estimates, 31 km of forests have been damaged and burnt.

Report on Ecological Damage of Political Demonstration in Islamabad 

Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman has sought report from the Capital Development Authority on the damage to ecology caused by PTI protesters who set trees on fire in Blue Area. In a statement, the minister said it was a matter of concern that trees were burnt in a political demonstration.

“Trees are the lungs of our city. Burning trees is a crime against the city and its citizens.” She said the ministry has requested the Capital Development Authority for a report on the total number of trees burnt and the damage to the ecosystem of the city. Islamabad`s Blue Area remained a battleground for the PTI’ protesters and the police couple of nights ago. In a bid to reduce the impact of the tear gas, some people put trees, dry grass and leaves on fire. However, the Senator says “Whoever has burnt the trees should be punished.”.

Solar Grid Station planned for Sindh’ Villages

While presiding over a meeting, Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh has directed the Enery department to establish mini solar grid stations for power supply to rural areas of the province. He ordered the Energy Department to immediately establish mini grid stations for an uninterrupted solar power supply to the villages specified in the project and also asked directed the companies to ensure timely completion of all works relating to the power supply system.

Significance of Solar Energy in Pakistan

The meeting was attended by Energy Secretary, Sindh Solar Energy Project Director, senior officials of the department and senior executives of the companies dealing in solar power supply to villages. The minister said that the provincial government has accorded special priority to solar and wind power generation projects, which would play an important role in ensuring a pollution free environment.

Judiciary orders Eco-friendly Conversion of Brick Kilns

The Peshawar High Court has directed brick kiln owners to ensure early conversion of their conventional kilns to the environment-friendly zig-zag technology to help reduce air pollution. A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Shakeel Ahmad observed that it couldn`t allow environmental pollution by brick kilns on the excuse that their owners didn`t have money to make the switch.

The court was hearing a petition filed by the KP Brick Kilns Association challenging the Environmental Protection Agency`s actions against brick kilns as well as the rules making it binding on kiln owners to employ the zig-zag technology, which is considered environment-friendly compared to the existing technology. The petitioner`s counsel said each brick kiln required at least Rs 6 to 7 million for the switch, which the owners couldn`t afford. However, the bench observed that merely on the excuse of a lack of resources, it would not allow the brick owners to contribute to environmental degradation through the continued use of outdated technology and recalled a stay order issued by it earlier stopping the provincial Environmental Protection Agency from taking any adverse action against brick kilns.

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