SHC restrains DHA from reclaiming coastal land till Nov 16

Plaintiffs claim public spaces being used in violation of law


Hasnaat Malik October 24, 2021
PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Sindh High Court has restrained the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) to reclaim land along the edge of sea existing in the province of Sindh until the next date of hearing on November 16.

“Till the next date of hearing, the defendants [DHA] are restrained from reclaiming any further land from any shores existing in the territorial jurisdiction of this court, or granting any such land to anyone, or creating any third party interest on these lands and properties built there on, or changing such lands’ use,” read a five-page order passed by SHC’s Justice Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan.

“The official defendants [must] ensure that lands and premises earlier sanctioned to them as public spaces or for the purpose of parking or facilitating the public at large including parks and amenities should not be used for any commercial and gainful purposes, as well as for holding of any functions including marriage or social gathering functions, gathering any sort of revenue for the defendants, till the next hearing,” the order added.

It read that the counsel for the plaintiffs submitted that their clients were mostly residents of the DHA.

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They had approached the court under the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Ordinance, 2019 against a number of defendants, private as well as government officials, to bring forward the illegalities being committed by them in reclaiming seashore lands and using them as well as other public lands for gainful purposes in violation of the law.

The court noted that the contentions raised by the learned counsel merit serious consideration as the danger posed by uneducated land reclamation without any scientific, oceanographic sediment and subsidence studies or other studies was utterly irreversible.

"It is a well-known fact that even in developed countries, despite having well thought of reclamation measures, more than 50% of coastal wetlands have been lost,” the court noted in the order.

“The adverse impact of land reclamation on mudflats, mangroves, coral reef and see grass can never be ruled out even in the presence of best practices having been adopted.”

The order read that the effects of global warming were already evident in the country and when the world was moving towards “Net-Zero” regime, haphazard and unnecessary land reclamation when a large mass of un-used land still existed, one questioning such activities, would always raise eyebrows.

The court noted that in the given circumstances, in the first instance official assignee was appointed at the cost of Rs100,000 payable by the plaintiffs to inspect and furnish a detailed report with photographs and maps of the reclaimed lands by defendant and details of commercial places of defendant numbers 13 to 34 with regards their title, occupation and land-use within 15 days while associating Karachi Urban Lab of any other similar institutions in this pursuit payable with an added fee of Rs75,000.

The order said that assistance of the National Institute of Oceanography Pakistan might also be sought. The hearing of case was adjourned until November 16.

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