Is Bus Rapid Transit project environment safe?: Peshawar High Court

Directs provincial environment body to explain pros and cons of project

Hidayat Khan November 09, 2017
Directs provincial environment body to explain pros and cons of project. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday directed the chief of the provincial environment body to explain the environmental impacts of the Rs57 billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, and what steps are being taken in this regard.

“We should be informed about all the pros and cons of the project as far as the environment of the city is a concern,” the court observed while issuing directives to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Environment Protection Agency (KP-EPA) Director General Dr Bashir Khan who had appeared before the court on Wednesday.

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“We should be told what steps have been taken to protect the city’s environment.”

A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court comprising Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Roohul Amin Khan was hearing a writ petition filed by Maulana Amanullah Haqqani of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), challenging the province’s most ambitious mass transit project.

Haqqani, who had submitted the petition through his counsel Isa Khan, said the BRT project will be a burden on the environment of the city, it will create traffic mess as no alternative traffic plan was devised and that no feasibility report has been prepared.

However, during the Wednesday’s hearing, Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousafzai said that the government launched the project after the KP-EPA accorded its approval.

At this, Chief Justice Afridi remarked that the court was confident in the EPA’s head since he is an expert in his field.

Yousafzai further argued that contrary to the petitioner’s claims that no feasibility report of the project was prepared beforehand, he said they could not have secured funding for it otherwise.

“A bank would not provide even Rs5,000 as a loan without a feasibility report, how is it possible that such a large loan is being provided by the Asia Development Bank without a proper feasibility report of the project,” Yousafzai countered.

The advocate general further told the court that among the documents of the project submitted to the court, a report on the environmental impacts of the project was also included.

Isa, in his arguments, pointed out that the local government department was not taken into confidence before the launch of the project.  He further also argued that the contracts signed with contractors have not been made public.

“They are not providing us with the contract letter signed with the contractors, hope they will provide it to the court, if the court directs them,” Isa hoped.

Yousafzai contended that under the K-P Urban Mass Transit Act 2016, the chief secretary of the local government is a member of the board which work for the planning and regulation of mass transit systems.

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The government representative further argued that if there were any loopholes in the project, they should have been raised by the opposition parties in the provincial assemblies.

The court, however, noted that the KP-EPA was an organised body focused on the environment and climate of the province, therefore, the court will require its guidance in deciding the case.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2017.


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