Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2019
KARACHI: While seeking details from landowning organisations on the roads
which have been commercialised in their respective jurisdictions, the Sindh
Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has warned the Sindh Building Control
Authority (SBCA) and the landowning organisations that they must not allow
any ‘development’ unless approval is granted by Sepa.
The Sepa letter dated March 26 has been sent to all cantonment boards,
Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC),
Karachi Development Authority (KDA) as well as the SBCA.
The step, the letter says, has been taken in the light of the Supreme Court
orders passed in January this year and the report submitted by the commission
on water and sanitation in which Karachi-specific recommendations have been
given as improvement initiatives requiring longer period.
“In pursuance of (these) orders, Sindh Environmental Protection Agency has
been mandated to ensure that the city of Karachi is restored to that of its
original master plan.
Warns against allowing development without its approval
“The department hereby requires a ‘progress report’ from all concerned
landowning organisations regarding the status of compliance to the orders of
the Supreme Court,” the letter says.
It calls upon landowning organisations as well as the SBCA to ensure filing
of environmental assessment reports by developers under Sepa rules as
recommended by the water commission in its final report.
The Sepa letter written to the DHA also “demands an urgent submission of an
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a traffic management plan for all
commercialised roads in its jurisdiction, including the EIA report of DHA
Phase 8 as well as the projects under the DHA Water Front Development Scheme.
“This exercise is essentially to be achieved to explore way forward towards
addressing further construction on the commercialised roads and the overall
sustainability of the province in general and the city resources in
particular,” it says.
The letter, however, also brings into question Sepa’s own writ, authority and
performance when it says that “the current chaotic condition on the
commercial roads of Karachi demands a review of the road
commercialisation/land use change policy whereby a number of roads were
commercialised without taking Sepa on board.
“It may be reminded that the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 as
well the Sindh Environmental Protection Act 2014 both have delineated that
every change in land use must be preceded by an Environmental Impact
Assessment in which the cumulative impact of all alterations in land use will
have to be clearly evaluated.
“The policy adopted for strip commercialisation is against the principles of
environmental sustainability since it is neither socially nor environmentally
acceptable. The commercialisation policy should have been preceded by a
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which is a critical step since it
concerns the future development of Karachi.
“The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency brings to your notice that the
role of this agency in the indiscriminate change of land use,
commercialisation and construction has been ignored, as well as densification
of roads has been undertaken without a master plan. As such a stage has been
reached that majority of plots on the commercial roads are being converted
into commercial ones.”
The letter also highlights the disaster spelled by city’s haphazard
densification and says that this process has been inattentive to the impact
of development of one section on the other and brought about at the cost of
Karachi’s meagre resources.
“Majority of the projects have been completed in violation to the approved
plans because there is no provision for parking and the space for parking has
been unauthorisedly allotted for more commercial activities in the basements.
“Development activities with the current approach are both faced with adverse
impact arising from deficiencies in infrastructure and other facilities in
the rest of Karachi.
“The demand for utilities, such as water, sewage disposal, electricity and
gas has increased considerably for which there is no plan for augmentation.
The water supply and sewerage system both have outlived their age and have no
capacity for taking extra burden.
“The sewerage system simply does not exist in most areas while the lack of
storm-water drains is creating submergence issues with every heavy rainfall.
The city residents are already protesting against the shortage of water, but
the authorities (SBCA, KDA, KMC, CBC and DHA) seem handicapped for
inadequacies in Karachi’s infrastructure,” the letter says.
It might be recalled here that it’s the second time Sepa has sought details
about commercialisation of roads. A similar letter was sent to the
organisations concerned in 2017.