The Sindh Environment Protection Agency is not known to be particularly good at what it is supposed to do — i.e. protect the environment. In fact, given the appalling state of environmental degradation in the province, perhaps it would be best if it began taking on a more active role in the execution of its regulatory responsibilities.
But there are also times when Sepa’s actions leave even the most committed environmentalist baffled. A case in point is the recent notices served to a construction company building a four-tower complex on the city’s beachfront. The complex is nearing completion, with some buildings occupied by tenants’ months ago.
Yet, only now has Sepa woken up to the idea that the building needs to submit an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of its construction. Given the fact that these buildings are some of the most visible aspects of Karachi’s skyline, it cannot be that the regulator was not aware of their existence.
The construction company responsible for the project appears to have fulfilled the requirements for obtaining permission from the Karachi Building Control Authority. Now, when the project is almost complete, Sepa seems to be keen on fulfilling its duties rather than at the beginning, which would have been the more appropriate time to do so. The idea behind this editorial is not to argue that Karachi’s development is to be sacrificed at the altar of environmental protection.
Rather, we are saying that the government’s own rules and regulations laid down for the construction of buildings and with regard to land use and city planning need to be followed. And it is the job of organisations such as Sepa to ensure that they are followed and implemented — or else concerned citizens will be justified in thinking that all of this is a charade.