HYDERABAD: The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a portion of the planned Karachi-Lahore Motorway, a part of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, has hit a snag. The public hearing on Thursday for the Rs260 billion 301-kilometer Hyderabad-Sukkur section of the motorway stopped short of vetoing the EIA.
“The baseline survey is insufficient. Quantification of data is insufficient and the quality of report is not good,” commented Naeem Ahmed Mughal, the director-general of the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). Sharing his observations as the last speaker, he echoed concerns expressed by the academia, citizens, NGOs and environmental activists as well as officials of the provincial government’s various departments who attended the hearing.
“This is a very important project but you have avoided consultation even with the lined departments [of the Sindh government]. The motorway’s section will pass through six districts and 17 talukas. Holding just one public hearing as a formality will not be acceptable,” said Mughal, asking the National Highway Authority (NHA) to hold more hearings on the EIA.
The report was jointly prepared by Associated Consulting Engineers (ACE) Pvt Ltd, Associated Consultancy Centre (ACC) Pvt Ltd and Assign Engineering Consult Intl (Pvt) Ltd for the NHA.
The objections included resettlement of the affected communities, compensation to the displaced and acquisition of land, medical facilities along the route and the impact on flora and fauna. “If you don’t address the environmental, social and cultural concerns, the project will not succeed,” the DG warned.
Dr Khan Muhammad Brohi, director of the Institute of Environmental Engineering and Management, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, complained that the EIA was not shared with the participants prior to the hearing. Many other participants also expressed this complaint.
“You are moving the slides [of presentation] very fast and the briefing is being given in English. How do you expect the common people to understand your technical terminologies in a fast-moving presentation?” he questioned.
The NHA officials and consultants claimed that the EIA can be downloaded from the NHA’s website. However, only one of the two-part EIA is accessible. The chapters containing details of environmental impact, resettlement and compensation are in the second part.
According to the EIA, around 75,000 acres of land will be acquired for the purpose. The motorway will also pass through a 1.5-km stretch of the Miani forest in Hyderabad.
NHA and consultants
For his part, the project director Jamal Yousuf Shaikh blamed the SEPA’s DG for raising unnecessary concerns. “He came after the presentation had ended, heard complaints of the participants and formed his opinion on its basis,” he told The Express Tribune after the event. Shaikh said the NHA had submitted the assessment report to SEPA over two months ago.
Assign Engineering Consult Intl’s Abdul Manan, who gave the presentation, claimed the EIA contained all the details that the DG had pointed out as missing. “We look forward to getting a written objection from the SEPA, which we haven’t received so far. The report contains details of resettlement, compensation, wildlife, forest and other issues.”
Under Section 17-b of Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014, if the committee is not satisfied with the EIA, it is empowered to order modifications or decline the approval.
This section of the Karachi-Lahore Motorway’s three-lane dual carriageway will start from Hyderabad and Jamshoro districts. It will end in Sukkur near Nara Canal after passing through Matiari, Shaheed Benazirabad and Khairpur districts.
Seven interchanges, 17 long and eight small bridges on the Indus river and the canals, besides a full-depth asphalt pavement and an unspecified number of flyovers and underpasses, will be built. The road will run parallel to the existing two-lane National Highway and one-lane Indus Highway. The construction is scheduled to be completed in 36 months.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2015.