Can’t breathe: K-P fails to form Environment Protection Tribunal

Law underpinning court yet to be passed, stuck in red-tape


Fawad Ali April 12, 2016
PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR:


Although the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led provincial government is spending millions on the Billion Tree Tsunami project, it has failed to form the Environment Protection Tribunal which would keep a check on other environment related issues .


Two years have passed since the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government passed its own environment protection act in December 2014 under which it was supposed to form the EPT, dissolving the tribunal formed by the federal government. However, a final draft containing rules under which the tribunal would be run has also been prepared and sent to the law department where it seems to have been scrapped; no one knows if any progress has been made on it or not.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say the laidback attitude of law department officials delayed forming of the tribunal.

“A summary was forwarded to the provincial government that approved it,” a senior official told The Express Tribune.

He added the rules were pending before the law department for the last three months. “It will be sent to the administration department after the law department approves it – that’s when the tribunal will be formed.”

In due process

A budget of Rs4.2 million was approved in June 2015 to form the tribunal. EPA Litigation Officer Mumtaz Khan said according to the EPA, the tribunal would comprise 24 staffers who would be headed by a chairperson of grade-21; possibly a high court judge; two officers each of grade-20; a registrar on grade-17; and technical and clerical staff.

Before the devolution in 2010, tribunals were working in K-P under Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Rules 1997. These tribunals were closed by the provincial government after it passed its own act in 2014.

And now in absence of the entity, the EPA is completely dependent on the district administration.

“If there is any complaint, we request the relevant district coordination officer for action,” Mumtaz told The Express Tribune. As per current rules, complaints can be referred to district governments in the absence of a tribunal; district governments are bound to act promptly.

Yet, complaints are filed and no action is taken. For instance, the issue of factories releasing toxic waste into Budni Nullah — which then flows into Kabul River — remains unresolved. Likewise, no action has been taken against brick kilns across K-P where tyres are burnt, releasing immense carbon into the air. Earlier tribunals had addressed around 593 of 718 complaints received between 2003 and 2014. Mumtaz said complaints used to be tackled in three ways – a complaint would be filed at EPT or forwarded to the district administration.

Pollution unending

Recently, he said, on the directives of EPA the district government sealed Almoeed Steel Industry in DI Khan and closed Line B of Lucky Cement factory for causing pollution.

Environment experts believe there are serious threats to the environment in the shape of deforestation and rapid urbanisation.  “Merely planting billion trees won’t help protect the environment; it needs proper care and protection,” said Adil Zareef, the convener of Sarhad Conservation Network.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.

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