Environmental concerns: SC reserves judgment in canal road widening case

Government shows flexibility, pushes for project to go ahead.

Rana Tanveer August 15, 2011


A Supreme Court bench on Monday reserved judgment in a suo motu hearing on the project for widening of the Canal Road after hearing arguments of counsel for the Punjab government and the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT).

The two-member bench headed by Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jilani was also hearing petitions against the cutting of trees along the Lahore Branch Canal for widening a 3.5 kilometre portion of the road.

Also in Monday, the LBT submitted alternative solutions for ending traffic congestion along the canal. Arguing on behalf of the LBT, Kamil Khan Mumtaz said that the solution did not lie in widening the canal road. He said issues like traffic management, use of service road and proper junctions needed to be addressed.

He said there was a need also to ‘reorganise’ the two faulty underpasses on the canal. He said that the interchanges on the canal road also needed to be reorganised as they were a major cause of traffic jams. He advocated improved use of service roads along the canal.

Imrana Tiwana, the LBT convener and the Lahore Conservation Society secretary, pointed out that the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (NESPAK) had already declared that Canal Road widening will not solve the traffic problems. She pointed out that NESPAK had also said that the problem would likely re-emerge within four years of canal road widening.

Dr Numana Mukhtar, an environment psychologist, opposed tree cutting and said that it led to various diseases.

Dr Pervez Hassan presented his report on preserving trees along the canal. He requested the court to address the reservations and objections raised by the petitioners including the World Wide Fund for Nature and some National College of Arts students. The Punjab government representative Advocate Salman Aslam Butt agreed to all recommendations made by Dr Hassan. He, however, requested the court to allow the government acquire a 2.5 km stretch to set up bus stops on the road. The court reserved the request for consideration. Justice Saqib Nisar during the hearing observed that development could not be halted. He added, however, that there must be a balance between development and environment protection.

Ali Hassan Hameed, who had undertaken a study of ecological impact of tree cutting, said that felling of the trees would also deprive frogs and earthworms of their habitat.

The SC had restrained the provincial government from going ahead with the project. The stretch at dispute is 3.5 km. The total length of the road that would be widened is 14.3 km. Road along 6.9 km has already been completed.

According to Dr Hassan’s report, the stretch at dispute has as many as 642 old trees of which 60 per cent are eucalyptus.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.

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