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Environment watchdog, CDA at loggerheads over Margalla Road’s construction – Newspaper
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Environment watchdog, CDA at loggerheads over Margalla Road’s construction – Newspaper

ISLAMABAD – The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency or (Pak EPA) and Capital Development Authority (CDA), are at loggerheads over Margalla Road construction and have challenged each other’s jurisdiction.

Pak-EPA, through an environment protection or, has asked the CDA for immediate halt to construction work on this road. The civic agency reacted by declaring the order illegal and saying that it was following Islamabad’s master plan, which was more than the mandate of the environment watchdog.

It is an attempt at limiting the CDA’s ability to fulfill its legislative duty under Sections 12-15 CDA Ordinance. The Rule 4 of Islamabad Wildlife Protection, Preservation and Management (Rules 1983) stipulates that no action shall be taken that is inconsistent with the master plan and the authority conferred by the CDA.

The CDA is currently constructing a section of Margalla Road, from Sangjani up to D-12. Half of the work has been completed. Pak-EPA issued a protective order on December 16, directing the CDA that the work be stopped, as it was not subject to an environment impact assessment (EIA).

Pak-EPA fines a civic agency for starting work with no EIA; CDA declares that road is being built in accordance to master plan

The agency also fined the CDA Rs1 million for not obtaining the EIA.

Sources claimed that Tuesday’s CDA fine was paid and that the CDA stated that it did not start work without EIA. The sources also said that the civic authority will handle any objections regarding the environment, as it has already allocated Rs100 millions for the environment. It will not listen to the EPA regarding the boundary of the road or Zone-III.

They claimed that only a small portion of the road crossed Zone III/Margalla Hills, but this is within the permitted area. However, 1992 zoning regulations clarified that the boundary for Zone III begins after the road.

Officials from the CDA stated that Pak-EPAs task is to protect the environment and ensure the implementation of a mitigation program, but not to check any area’s boundary.

However, the Pak EPA order stated that: It is important here to mention that administrative plenty has not yet been paid. The Pak-EPA also observed the mobilization of machinery and ongoing development activities in the Margalla Hills National Park.

It stated that the PakEPA director general, in exercise of powers under Section 16 (2) of Environment Act 1997, has served upon you this environment protection order and directed you to immediately close and cease all development activities. This order will be submitted to the agency. Failure to comply will result in further legal action under Pakistan Environmental Protection Act.

The CDA responded to the EPA order on Tuesday by submitting the Rs1million fine and deciding to reject all objections, except those that relate to the environment.

Sources stated that a CDA letter was to be sent Pak-EPA. The letter mentioned EPA letter dated 16.12.2021, in which an illegal order was issued to halt construction of Margalla Avenue.

The master plan was developed and implemented by CDA in accordance with Section 12 to 15. The federal cabinet approved the master plan in 1960. It includes major highways and roads network in the capital city. Khayaban-i-Margalla can be found in the master plan. It starts at GT Road near Nicholson Monument, and runs to the foothills of Margalla Hills before reaching Murree Road near Bhara Kahu.

The letter mentioned that an earlier road with the same alignment was already in existence. Khayaban-i-Margalla, which was now within the same right-of-way, was being built in accordance to the original master plan.

It should also be noted that Rule 4 (Islamabad Wildlife Protection, Preservation and Management) Rules 1983 states that no action will ever be taken that is in contradiction to the masterplan and the authority conferred by CDA.

Sources claimed that the road under construction also gives access to the residential areas of D-12, C-13 and C-14, C-15, and C-16 as well as Margalla Hills National Park itself.

The letter stated that the EPA had used an incorrect interpretation of Section 12 of the Environment Protection Act in its protection order.

The contents of the letter are contrary to the master plan and will prevent implementation of the plan. The above EPA order is a restriction on CDA’s legislative duties under Sections 12-15 of an ordinance. The letter added: You are hereby obliged to withdraw the above referred correspondence which is in contradiction to the provisions of CDA ordinance.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd 2021

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