HYDERABAD: Setting a precedent, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has taken four builders and three factories to the recently constituted environmental tribunals. If charges against them are proved, the builders and firms could be penalised with a fine of up toRs5 million.
The acting regional director of Sepa, Munir Abbassi, told The Express Tribune that Sepa filed cases against the alleged violators of environmental laws after they persistently failed to respond to the agency. Abbassi claimed that before lodging the cases in the tribunal, Sepa had issued notices and environmental protection orders to the defendants.
Hyderabad is witnessing a rapid vertical growth in the real estate sector. However, neither enforcement of the building control regulations nor of environmental laws appears to be in place.
According to Section 17 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014, no construction project can be started without submitting initial environmental examination (IEE) or environment impact assessment (EIA) – the former required for buildings with fewer storeys and the latter for high-rise buildings – to Sepa and obtaining its approval. Abbassi claimed that so far no building project had submitted the IEE or EIA to the agency.
The Sindh Building Control Authority informed Sepa about 70 buildings that are currently being constructed in Hyderabad. “We have written to all the builders to submit the IEEs or the EIAs. The ones who are complying have been given time and the builders who haven’t bothered to reply have been taken to the tribunal,” Abbassi said.
The assessment reports are stipulated to detail the project location, facilities, site clearance, excavation, concreting, black masonry, plaster, construction material, machinery and engineering. The details of water, gas and power supply, sewage and solid waste management, electrical system, firefighting, safety and security are also to be included in the report.
Two of the four high-rises which will now face proceedings in the tribunal are located on Autobahn Road. The buildings offer both commercial and residential spaces. The third building is located in Saddar and is being constructed on a site where a cinema once existed. The fourth building, which includes a shopping mall and residential facility, is located along the Hyderabad Bypass in Qasimabad.
Sepa has also filed cases against a paper mill in the Hyderabad Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE) area and two poultry feed factories in Kotri SITE. The three factories have been charged with disposing effluent and solid waste untreated in the open environment and in the waterways. Cases against them have been filed under sections 11, 14, 17 and 21 of the Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014.
With a total of only 17 staff members including officials, lab technicians and inspectors to cover 10 districts of Sindh, the Sepa office in Hyderabad is understaffed. However, despite such human resource and other constraints, the agency, in recent years, has paced up crackdown against violators of the environmental laws.