All private and public projects to be implemented in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) should be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Planning and Development Department (PDD). This was decided by experts at a workshop held at a local hotel here on Tuesday.
The speakers said that in G-B, nearly all development projects are initiated without a prior Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – a systematic process that identifies, predicts and evaluates the environmental effects of development schemes. They said that the review will ensure that the projects follow environmental protocols developed by the national EPA.
The Forests and Wildlife Advisor Aftab Haider was the chief guest, while more than 50 participants including secretaries, directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, executive engineers and engineers from all departments attended the workshop.
“Gilgit-Baltistan EPA and PDD and the National Impact Assessment Programme (NIAP) have taken measures to address the environmental concerns in G-B under the Environmental Protection Act 1997,” said EPA
Director Shehzad Shigri. He added that all developers have been instructed to follow EIA regulation 2000 while preparing project proposals.
According to environmentalists, EIA is applied primarily to prevent or minimise the adverse environmental impacts of major development proposals, such as power stations, industrial complexes, dams and reservoirs.
“We realise that there is a need to create understanding of EIA process both at the decision-making and the midline-professional level,” said an official.
Furthermore, participants stressed the need for strict enforcement of EIA to salvage the fragile environment of G-B where mega projects like repair of Karakoram Highway and raising of Diamer-Bhasha Dam are in progress.
“We shouldn’t make development at the cost of our natural environment,” said an expert. As a case study, the participants would be taken to an 18 megawatt power project at Naltar on Wednesday, where technical experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and EPA would brief them about the viability of the project. The recommendations of the workshop will be submitted to the regional government for strict implementation in future projects.
The workshop was jointly organised by EPA and PDD.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.