Tuesday December 05, 2023

Comments sought on plea against land acquisition for biogas plant

September 24, 2023

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the federal law officer to file comments on a petition of allottees and other residents against the acquisition of land and the construction of a biogas plant for the Red Line bus rapid transit (BRT) project in Cattle Colony.

The petitioners had submitted that the government’s attempt to acquire 32 acres of land to set up a biogas plant was detrimental to the health of the residents of the area.

They submitted that Cattle Colony meets the meat and milk requirements of the city, and the land earmarked for the biogas plant is meant for slaughterhouses and milk-farming facilities.

They further stated that the disruption of commercial activities would adversely impact the quantities of meat and milk supplied to the city. They submitted that the biogas plant meant to be housed in a densely populated area would expose a large number of people to toxic elements.

The petitioners said that the process of producing biogas involves the collection of vast amounts of biological waste, such as animal manure and carcasses, for the production of biomethane, and it also leads to the production of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, which pose a risk to public health.

They added that the viability of a biogas plant for running the BRT project has not been tested, and the absence of real-world examples of mass transit projects fuelled by biomethane in and of itself underscores the immense financial and infrastructure risk being undertaken by the government.

They said that the government had failed to assess the financial feasibility of the project, especially given the untested nature of the mass transport project fuelled exclusively by biogas, and that the government had also failed to assess other sustainable alternatives to biogas.

The counsel for the petitioners also filed a stay application submitting that the respondents were threatening them with dispossession of the subject plot upon which they were claiming propriety rights pursuant to the allotment made by the KMC.

He submitted that the government intended to construct a biogas plant over 12 acres of land without seeking the approval of the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, while there was apprehension that the respondents would take adverse action against the petitioners.

The SHC was requested to declare the allotment of land in Cattle Colony for the purpose of a biogas plant as illegal since it was done without considering the health consequences for the residents.

The counsel for the KMC and the federal law officer sought time to file comments on the petition, and to seek instructions from the government in this regard.

A division bench headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi directed the KMC and the federal law officer to file comments on the petition, and directed the office to tag the other identical matter with the instant petition.

The court also restrained the KMC from taking any adverse action against the allottees of Cattle Colony unless the legal proceedings for the cancellation of their allotment are initiated in accordance with the law.