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Wednesday June 12, 2024

Environmental laws flouted in construction of Jauhar Chowrangi flyover

Sepa turns a blind eye to lack of both initial environment examination and environment impact assessment report that are mandatory for such mega projects; no traffic analysis done to measure benefits of project quantitatively; no official record of trees chopped

By Oonib Azam
March 24, 2023
Foreign Minister and Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari inaugurates Gulistan-e-Jauhar flyover during ceremony held in Karachi on Thursday, March 23, 2023. — PPI
Foreign Minister and Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari inaugurates Gulistan-e-Jauhar flyover during ceremony held in Karachi on Thursday, March 23, 2023. — PPI 

The Zia Mohyeddin Flyover in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, which was inaugurated by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday, was completed without completing key environment-related formalities as neither was the initial environment examination (IEE) carried out for the project or was the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report prepared.

Infamous for being a toothless organisation, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) once again turned a blind eye to the blatant violation of its own law.

Section 17 of the Sepa Act 2014 reads: “No proponent of a project shall commence construction or operation unless he has filed with the Agency an IEE or EIA, & has obtained from the Agency approval in respect thereof.”

The flyover project worth Rs2.1 billion also includes an underpass, which is not complete yet. The complete title of the project was ‘Construction of Flyover and Underpass at Jauhar Chowrangi Intersection’.

The consultancy for the project was awarded to the ABM Engineers. The Jauhar Chowrangi flyover starts near Perfume Chowk on Professor Ghafoor Ahmed Road and ends just before Darul Sehat Hospital on Abul Asar Hafeez Jalandhari Road.

The underpass under construction lies perpendicular to the flyover on the road connecting Samama with Pehelwan Goth. The EIA/IEE regulations 2014 available on the Sepa website clearly mention that submission of an EIA report is a must before any flyover, underpass or bridge having a total length of more than 500 metres is constructed.

For the Gulistan-e-Jauhar project, the length of the flyover is 461 metres and that of the under-construction underpass is 1,100 metres.

Advocate Zubair Abro, who has expertise in environmental laws, said the size and nature of the project made it mandatory for the Sindh local government department to submit an EIA report to Sepa and also hold a public hearing so that people may raise any concerns related to the project.

The Sepa law’s Section 17(3) says that every review of the EIA has to be carried out with public participation. For this project, there was no public hearing, let alone any public objection notice in any newspaper.

Abro explained that a project with more than one category, such as the project under discussion that involves both a flyover and underpass, mandatorily requires the submission of an EIA. He gave examples of the Clifton flyover and underpass, and Gizri flyover projects, in which the court ordered the proponent to submit an EIA to Sepa and hold a public hearing.

In case of violation of section 17 of the Sepa Act, he said, the law stated that the construction work would be stopped and criminal proceedings against the proponent of the project would be initiated.

The construction of the flyover and underpass at Jauhar Chowrangi is part of the Karachi Transformation Plan worth Rs1,114 billion announced by the incumbent provincial government and former federal government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2020.

The PPP-led Sindh government has to bear Rs378 billion in the plan, of which it is supposed to spend Rs233.1 billion on road and mass-transit projects.

According to the modified PC-1 of the Gulistan-e-Jauhar flyover and underpass project, the project is justified because of the high volume of traffic movements and congestion at major intersections between Jauhar Mor and Kamran Chowrangi and also between University Road and the airport.

“This project will provide ease in traffic movement through this [Jauhar Chowrangi] intersection,” reads the PC-1. The PC-1 also states that the economic and social benefit indicators do not apply to the project.

An official of the Sindh government, who is an engineer by profession, told The News requesting anonymity that the project and its PC-1 were problematic. The official pointed out that there should have been a traffic analysis before initiating the project to know from where the traffic coming to Jauhar Chowrangi originated and where it ended. The mere traffic count would not suffice, he added.

“The PC-1 is qualitative in nature,” the official said, adding that there needed to be a quantitative justification for the economic cost of the project because Rs2.1 billion public money was going to be spent on it.

The official said that the economic analysis, which is mentioned as not required in the project’s PC-1, would explain how much value of time commuters and how much vehicle operating costs would be saved after the project was completed.

The official pointed out how the traffic problem in Gulistan-e-Jauhar was because of the Perfume Chowk U-turn just ahead of the flyover than the Jauhar Chowrangi intersection itself.

Without resolving the traffic problem at the Perfume Chowk U-turn, the construction of the flyover, he said, would be of little use. He added that either a flyover or an underpass at one of the two roads of the intersection would have been enough. “There was no need to construct both.”

The official gave the example of Lalukhet No 10 where a flyover and an underpass existed simultaneously but the traffic mess still persisted. At Lalukhet, he said, all sorts of encroachments exist beneath the flyover causing traffic issues all the way to Meena Bazaar in Karimabad. “Same would happen at the Jauhar Chowrangi intersection after the completion of the entire project,” he feared.

Resident engineer of ABM Engineers, Muhammad Rizwan, who is the consultant for the project, agreed that the traffic mess in Gulistan-e-Jauhar was mostly because of encroachments, wrong parking and traffic movement from the wrong side.

Talking to The News, he said that even after the construction of the underpass and the flyover, there could be traffic jams if the issues of encroachments and wrong-way traffic were not resolved.

Tree cutting

As per the PC-1 of the project, trees would be cut for the construction of the flyover, underpass and alternative routes marked for the construction phase. The PC-1 says that all the trees would be cut within the 100-foot radius of Jauhar Chowrangi.

Since there has been no EIA, we do not know the exact number of trees that were chopped down for the construction of the project.

When The News asked Project Director Shabi ul Hassan about no IEE or EIA for the project, he replied that he had joined the project just four months ago and could not comment on why no IEE or EIA was carried out.

He, however, said that there existed a traffic count study for the project. He maintained that if there had been no EIA, nothing could be done at this stage as more than half of the project was already completed and the public had started benefitting from it.