Margalla Hills Encroachments to Lahore Smog; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

14 November 2021

Margalla Hills National Park Encroachments

The Islamabad High Court blames federal government, the CDA & Wildlife Management Board for complacency about the destruction of Margalla Hills National Park & wildlife sanctuary. The order observes that the role of these 3 institutions appears as classic example of erosion of rule of law & facilitation of environmental degradation.

Pakistan is amongst the top countries ranked most vulnerable to the life threatening outcome of climate change. Experts have classified Pakistan as a prime target of global warming. The court observes the encroachment & destruction of the national park already caused immeasurable and irreversible damages having life threatening consequences & put the future generations at a great risk.

The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency is, therefore, asked to conduct an independent survey of the notified areas of the wildlife sanctuary and the park and submit a report, highlighting the extent of environmental degradation and suggesting measures to protect it from further destruction.

Court seeks compliance reports on Smog in Lahore

The Lahore High Court asks compliance reports from all the deputy commissioners in Punjab on the implementation of a judicial commission`s recommendations for steps to control smog. The WHO has ranked Lahore in the top most polluted cities of the world due to heavy smog.

A panel of activists filed a petition on the provincial government`s failure to appropriately deal with the environmental issues, particularly the impact of its many `development` schemes, which contributed huge amounts of dust to air. The petitioner said, a court-appointed-commission had pointed out negligence on part of the authorities to control environmental pollution and to comply with the directions issued by the court.

Their lawyer prayed to the court to summon details of measures taken by the government to address the prevailing condition of smog in the whole province and also sought strict action against the industrial activities for violating the pollution charge activities as per the Pollution Charge Industry Rules, 2017. On that the court has sought a compliance report from the deputy commissions by Nov 15, 2021.

COP26 ends without actions

The COP26 ends this week where participating nations have agreed a deal on the climate crisis and adopt The “Glasgow climate pact”. They agreed to keep the goal of limiting global heating within reach to 1.5C but clearly fell well short in actions required to limit temperatures to 1.5C — the key threshold of safety set out in the 2015 Paris agreement.

Poor countries were also left frustrated at the pact, which they said did not address their concerns about “loss and damage”. But rich nations have been reluctant to agree any mechanism for financing “loss and damage”. Yet, all countries have agreed to return to the negotiating table next year, at a conference in Egypt, and re-examine their national plans, with a view to increasing their ambition on cuts.

World Bank to help Punjab in Affordable Housing

The World Bank has decided to help the Punjab government improve access to housing for low income groups and will support it to articulate a comprehensive strategy in this regard. The Bank’ technical assistance will focus on policy reforms, strengthening of institutions, development for improving effectiveness and efficiency of housing supply.

The total cost of the `Punjab Affordable Housing Program` has been estimated at $200 million and the World Bank will support the province to better align its strategy with the `Naya Pakistan Housing Program` to better coordinate the two programs and leverage federal resources that will be available for interventions in Punjab.

Karachi Sea-view Commercialization Suspended

An environmental tribunal suspended this week the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) approval, accorded by the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) to a project meant for allegedly commercializing the seafront in the name of development by the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC). The tribunal also remanded the matter back to Sepa with the direction to decide the same afresh in accordance with the law.

The tribunal passed these directives while disposing of an appeal filed by a group of citizens expressing their concerns about the proposed commercialization of the seafront in the Phase-V of the Defense Housing Authority. The appellants alleged that Sepa had granted IEE approval dated Feb 19, 2020 in violation of the provisions of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency Regulations, 2014 arguing that said project in fact required filing of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) instead of IEE.

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