KARACHI: Calling the Malir highway illegal, speakers at a seminar demanded that the government immediately stop the controversial project.
The whole approval process was a farce, they said, while bitterly criticizing the government for ignoring local communities in the Malir highway project.
This would lead to loss of livelihoods for local people and damage valuable biological assets, speakers said at the seminar titled “An Analysis of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Malir Highway Project” hosted by the Urban Resource Center on Wednesday. (URC).
Sharing their concerns about the approval of the project, they alleged that the project aimed at serving only the elite was already under construction as it had obtained a no-objection certificate from the Environmental Protection Agency of the Sindh (Sepa) in violation of relevant law.
“This is a serious violation of the Sepa law because no project can be carried out without the approval of the department concerned. Furthermore, there was no consultation with local communities during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project which contained incorrect data,” said Akhtar Rasool representing Indigenous Rights Alliance.
The EIA’s flawed report, which caused a lot of concern when it was presented at a public hearing, was dismissed, he added.
“The environmental watchdog has not taken note of the public outcry or responded to the document containing the reservations from experts and residents,” they said.
The area of Malir in question, he said, constitutes the last remaining agricultural areas of the city and must be protected. “Instead of taking action against several illegal housing corporations that have gobbled up thousands of acres of farmland in Malir over the years, the government has embarked on a project that results in the destruction of several villages in Malir, their rich biodiversity and their ecology.
Further explaining his view, he said that the construction of the mega project will dry up the wells and underground water reservoirs. Several houses will be demolished as well as an old library which was on the way of the project.
Hafeez Baloch, also representing the alliance, said the project would only serve the elite. “It is highly reprehensible that the government has launched this project only to facilitate property developers, including builders in Bahria Town and DHA City. The fact was ignored that the entire city, which is already experiencing the impact of climate change, would pay the cost of the resulting environmental destruction.
On a question, Mr. Baloch said that although government officials had made statements, there had been no changes in the design of the project.
URC’s Zahid Farooq stressed the need for unity among all segments of society that have been directly or indirectly affected by so-called development projects. “We believe that all groups affected by government projects or operations concerning the Gujjar and Orangi nullahs or the Manzoor settlement should unite under one banner and start a resistance movement.”
Posted in Dawn, June 9, 2022