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November 7, 2016

KP govt fails to form Environment Protection Tribunal even after two years

National

November 7, 2016

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has failed to form the Environment Protection Tribunal in over two years as it didn’t enact law for constituting the tribunal.

The environment-related issues remained unresolved in the province due to non-existence of Environment Protection Tribunal for the last three years. The people are filing environment cases in the Peshawar High Court in the absence of the tribunal.

Interestingly, the PTI-led provincial government spent huge funds on the “Billion Tree Tsunami Project” but it failed to enact the Environment Protection Act for the formation of the Environment Protection Tribunal to resolve the environment issues.

Earlier, the environment tribunals used to be run under the federal government, but after the 18th Constitutional Amendment and devolution of powers to provinces, the environment protection tribunals were dissolved in December 2014. The provinces were asked to make own law for formation and running the tribunals before the dissolution.

However, it has been almost three years when the tribunal in KP was dissolved but the provincial government couldn’t enact the law to form the tribunal.During hearing of the writ petitions about pollution in the Green Bench of the Peshawar High Court, Director General, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr Muhammad Bashir Khan, informed the court that he had filed hundreds of cases against the violators of environment laws in the Environment Protection Tribunal, but the cases were pending due to non-existence of the tribunal.

To the court’s question about non-existence of the tribunal, deputy advocate general, who was representing the government in the cases, stated that the provincial government has finalized a draft containing rules under which the tribunal would be run. He said the Law Department has cleared the draft and now it was with the Administration Department for approval. He said it would soon be tabled in the assembly for turning it into a law.

An official said the tribunal would comprise of 24 staff members headed by a chairperson in grade-21 who would be a retired high court judge. It would comprise of two officers each of grade-20, a registrar in grade-17 and technical and clerical staff.

Before devolution in 2010, tribunals were working under Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Rules 1997. The federal government later asked the provinces to enact own rules and laws for running the tribunals as they would become non-functional after December 2014.

The EPA director general informed the court that in the absence of the tribunal, the Environmental Protection Agency was contacting the district administration for taking action against the violators.

He informed the high court that 92 cases were referred to deputy commissioner Peshawar for action against the violators, but no action was taken against them by the district administration. He said complaints were being filed and no action was taken.He said he sent letters to the deputy commissioner Peshawar about the factories that were releasing toxic waste into the stream Budhni Nullah that flows into river Kabul.

Besides, he said no action was taken against brick-kilns across KP where tyres were burnt and immense carbon was released into the air. He said air pollution is mainly caused by industries, coal machines, cotton factories and burnt waste. He said there is no dumping site for waste in the city.

The PHC Green Bench was hearing writ petitions related to environment issues including a petition filed against pollution from solid waste of marble factories in Buner district. The second petition was filed for elimination and control of pollution in Peshawar.

The provincial government in its reply to the solid waste case submitted before the court that it had acquired 16 kanals of land for dumping solid waste of the marble factories in Buner.About solid waste in Peshawar, the Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar (WSSP) Projects General Manager Attaullah and lawyer Atif Ali informed the bench that the WSSP had paid Rs173 million to the local government for acquiring 540 kanals of barren land in Badaber area of Peshawar for disposal of solid waste.

“The city of flowers has been turned into the city of dirtiness. The court will not compromise on the pollution issue and would take stern action against the officials concerned if its orders were not complied with,” Justice Qaiser Rashid warned during the hearing.

Justice Yahya Afridi remarked that pollution is an issue that concerns all and everyone should take responsibility to control and eliminate it from the city as well as the province.Ghulam Shoaib Jaaly, who filed the writ petition, informed the bench that it was revealed recently in the World Health Organisation (WHO) report that Peshawar was the second most polluted city out of 1,600 cities in the world. He said currently the air pollution in Peshawar is 100 percent and pollution in the drinking water and dirtiness is very high.

The Green Bench of the PHC had also directed the Peshawar district nazim to hold a meeting on November 7 with officials concerned including deputy commissioner Peshawar, director general Environmental Protection Agency, representatives of Communication and Works Department, Cantonment Board Peshawar and Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar and find ways and means for eliminating and controlling pollution in Peshawar.