The primary concern for departments concerned is to ensure that the groundwater in the area is not affected by construction of underpasses at Kalma Chowk and Model Town Mor, Nespak Engr Adeel Pervez said on Friday.
He was presenting the environment impact assessment (EIA) of the underpasses to a gathering of government officials, residents and students at a public hearing organised by the Environment Protection Department.
He said once the underpasses open for traffic, air pollution in the region is expected to go down and fuel consumption of vehicles to improve due to a less braking.
Of the 147 trees to be removed from Ferozepur Road, Gulberg’s Main Boulevard and Garden Town during construction work, 50 would be chopped down.
“The EPD will plant five saplings for every tree cut for the construction of the underpasses,” he said.
He said 20 of the 50 trees to be cut were on Gulberg’s Main Bouleward and 30 on Ferozepur Road and the road leading to Model Town.
The remaining trees would be removed with their roots intact and replanted elsewhere.
Pevaiz claimed that at least 95 per cent of respondents in interviews with residents, businesses and students in the area had supported the construction of the two underpasses.
The Kalma Chowk underpass, between Gulberg’s Main Boulevard and Barkat Market in Garden Town, will be completed in three months. The construction of the underpass at Model Town Mor will begin afterwards.
To a question about particulate matter count in air samples, Nespak’s expert on environment Kashif Bashir said the latest available count (June 2011) was 440 micrograms per metre cube (µg/m3).
This, he said, was more than 319 micrograms per metre cube (µg/m3) before construction of Kalma Chowk Flyover started in March. Dust level permissible under the National Environment Quality Standards is 40 µg/m3.
Bashir said dust was likely to increase further with the start of construction work for the underpasses in the coming days.
Nespak Highway Division’s Arshad Malik said a plan would be evolved to protect from damage the water supply from canal to irrigate the green belts along the roads and Nawaz Sharif Park in Model Town.
He was responding to Model Town resident Pervez Akbar Lodhi’s question.
Rs708,000 will be spent to minimise the impact of the construction on environment under an environment management plan.
Pervez said contractors had been directed to place machinery causing noise away from schools, hospitals and mosques located on the construction site.
Other measures meant to ensure that the construction was environment friendly included a ban on burning stuff on construction site and a thorough examination of the machinery for fitness.
He said contractors would be directed to install water sprinklers to prevent dust clouds in the surroundings during construction.
Environmentalists conspicuous by their absence
None of the groups lobbying for green causes in the city that had been active against the proposal to construct a flyover and an underpass at the Kalma Chowk were represented at the hearing.
The environmentalists The Express Tribune spoke to about this either expressed ignorance about the hearing or said the previous ones had not been very purposeful.
Lawyer Ahmed Rafay Alam, who represented Shajar Dost and Lahore Conservation Society in a plea against the flyover construction before the Lahore High Court, said attendance at the hearing would have been futile. “The only new objection I could have raised was about the cutting of trees,” he said. Architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz expressed ignorance about the hearing. He said no action was taken on objections raised during the public hearing for the flyover. “I would have still attended the hearing had I been informed about it,” he said. At the hearing before flyover construction, Ejaz Ahmad Nazim of Shajar Dost had objected to the cutting and replanting of some foreign species of plants. “The officials concerned don’t take these hearings seriously else they would have revised the flyover construction plan in light of the objections raised during the previous public hearing,” he said. At the least they could have held another public hearing before starting the construction. Two Punjab University students present at the hearing on Friday referred to the newspaper advertisements for the hearing and pointed out that these did not mention the venue. “Was it done to prevent a large audience of concerned citizens?” they asked. EPD spokesman Naseemur Rahman said Communications and Works Department was respobnsible for giving the ad in newspapers. Also, he said, the EPD officials were not bothered by the low attendance.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.