The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the Karachi Port Trust’s (KPT) authorities to file detailed comments, explaining whether the under-construction deep sea container port would have any repercussions on the ecology and environment or not.
On the request of the deputy attorney general, the bench headed by SHC Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar granted time to file the federal authorities’ comments to a beachgoer’s plea against the megaproject.
Abdul Jabbar Khan, who lives in an apartment complex at the beachfront, claimed that the fundamental rights of the public, particularly the Karachi’ites, will be violated due to encroachment of the Clifton beach. He maintained that it was the only beach accessible to the public in the port city, offering recreational and entertainment opportunities. Located about a kilometre off the seashore in front of Block 1 and 2 of Clifton, the beautiful rocks are a “natural gift for the safety of humans as well as wildlife,” said Khan. “The rocks play an important role against earthquakes. The lives of millions of people in Karachi may be at risk in case a natural disaster strikes because the rocks were being dismantled by heavy dredgers to pave the way for the terminal’s construction.”
To substantiate his concerns, the petitioner referred to a survey conducted by Japanese experts for the deep sea terminal, saying that the study had clearly suggested establishing such terminal at the western waters. The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) decided, however, to establish the terminal on the eastern front for reasons best known to the authorities, he said.
Around 15 square kilometres, including the Clifton beach, have been “encroached” to build the port, depriving people of recreational opportunities, the petitioner alleged, appealing to the court to declare the construction of the deep sea container terminal illegal and permanently restrain the authorities from building the port. “Rather, they should be ordered to restore the beach.”
The ministries of ports and shipping, environment and tourism, the KPT, Karachi commissioner and the South district deputy commissioner have been cited as respondents.
Taking up the matter of public interest in January last year, the bench had issued notices to the federal, provincial and local government authorities to file their replies. On Tuesday, the Karachi Port Trust filed a counter-affidavit through its lawyer, Mehmood Alam Rizvi. The two judges, however, found that the comments lacked details and important information.
Qazi Ali Athar, an environmentalist attorney who is assisting the court as Amicus Curiae, also opposed the project, suggesting to the court to call a report of the study which has been conducted on the directives of the director-general of Naval Operations.
Citing the report, he said that the eastern side of the coastal belt is thickly populated and has no infrastructure for the movement of heavy vehicles, which is why the study had suggested the western waters for the deep seaport. The western part has less population which would be affected and also has infrastructure for communication, including the RCD Highway.
Qazi Athar also proposed to the judges to call another report prepared by the Senate’s standing committee on ports and shipping, which had also opposed the project, arguing that the KPT could not launch and execute any project without the prerogative of the federal government.
The judges directed the KPT lawyer to file additional information by February 25.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 6th, 2014.