ISLAMABAD: An independent commission has recommended implementation of the existing laws for the protection of the capital’s environment.
In its 120-page report submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday, the commission said, “There is no need for new legislation as [existing] laws are adequate and satisfactory.”
The 13-member Islamabad Environmental Commission headed by environmental law expert Dr Parvez Hassan was set up by the IHC in response to a writ petition regarding degradation of the capital’s environment.
The petition had argued that the degradation was due to inaction of departments responsible for conservation and protection of the capital’s environment.
The commission compiled its report after holding six meetings, five field visits, and a public hearing between April and October 2015.
Reports on workable short and long term solutions for environmental problems were prepared by six subcommittees formed by the commission and are also part of the report.
Changes to master plan
The commission makes 10 priority recommendations requiring immediate implementation, and 13 other recommendations which could be implemented in the next two-to-three years.
One of the priority recommendations of calls for the adoption of a transparent and well-defined process for introducing changes to city’s Master Plan due to emerging city needs.
It says any future amendment to the CDA Ordinance 1960 provisions on the Master Plan should be made subject to prior approval from a competent forum, which the commission identifies as the Islamabad Planning and Advisory Board (IPAB).
IPAB would have representation from relevant government departments, urban planners, engineers, architects, academics, landscape specialists, horticulturists, botanists, zoologists, and civic society organisations.
At the moment, any amendment to the ordinance requires approval approved from the federal cabinet after a formal request from the capital’s civic agency.
As an alternative, the commission also recommends that at the minimum, changes should require approval from the National Assembly and Senate standing committees on cabinet secretariat before a recommendation is made to the federal cabinet.
On past master plan and zoning violations, the report says these should be assessed by IPAB, and that those deemed hazardous to the environment, or unsustainable and inconsistent with the public interest, or a hindrance to future planning, may be removed to the extent needed.
Calling for an immediate implementation of the existing national park management plan, the commission suggested the enforcement of a complete ban on the development of housing schemes and other construction work in MHNP, and in City Zone-III — which borders the national park area.
Fresh demarcation of Zone-III, protection of a five-kilometre buffer zone around the hills, strict building regulations on privately-owned land, cancellation of all no-objection certificates issued by the CDA for construction in protected areas, and disconnection of all utilities to private housing schemes in MHNP have also been recommended.
The commission also suggests heavy penalties for zoning violations and stricter management of tourism in MHNP.
The commission suggests that the court should announce a complete ban on the practice of encroaching on green belts and parks, while forcibly removing any existing encroachments. It also suggests that the Environmental Impact Assessment requirements of the 1997 act for all public and private projects must be complied. It requests the federal government to increase the budget allocations for the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) and to enhance its capacity.
The 13 other recommendations include taking steps to ensure the provision of clean drinking water in rural Islamabad, better solid, hospital and industrial waste management, air pollution management, better coordination among environmental management agencies, and restructuring of the CDA.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2015.