Malir residents to approach court against Sepa’s approval

Local residents of District Malir along with civil society activists and Malir Expressway Action Committee have decided to approach judiciary against the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency’s (Sepa) approval of the environment impact assessment (EIA) report for the Malir Expressway.

A resident of District Malir and member of the action committee, Muhammad Ashraf, announced this during a press conference held on Friday at the Karachi Press Club. He maintained that great injustice was being done to the residents of District Malir in the name of the Malir Expressway.

He claimed that all experts of Karachi believed that the project was only being built to benefit the builder mafia by increasing the property value of the projects recently built by them on the agricultural lands of Malir.

“The purpose of this expressway is solely to provide easy access to these real estate projects to the already influential gentry residing in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority. The easier the access for the moneyed elite to these real estate projects is, the higher their value is,” he said.

Ashraf said it was also important to understand that projects such as these played a crucial role in increasing Pakistan’s circular debt, inflation and unemployment rates. “They benefit construction businesses by putting their owners’ capital in circulation, but add nothing in return to the country’s economy. To add to this, our economic policies purposely benefit this class instead of the salaried class.”

He informed the media that a document detailing the adverse impact of the proposed expressway on the city’s environment and the local community was submitted by the concerned residents to Sepa on March 9, 2022, following the public hearing on the project held by the agency.

Unfortunately, he said, the Sindh government ignored the serious concerns raised by Malir residents, their representatives and city’s urban planners, only to benefit powerful owners of construction projects as well as the government’s ‘corrupt’ ministers and advisers.

Calling the EIA report bogus, Ashraf said the report failed to fully assess the damage the project would cause to Karachi’s ecology. “It did not even take into account the personal, social and economic costs that the area’s residents will incur because of the project.”

He mentioned that the report, without offering any concrete analysis, claimed that 9,000 vehicles would pass through this expressway daily, allowing people to travel from Clifton and DHA to other gated housing communities and DHA City in 14.3 minutes less than the current route. He added that the $160 million project was to be built at the expense of the city’s environment, and homes and crops of people already mired in hunger and poverty, only to provide more facilities to the elite class.

He went on to claim that the first victims of the environmental catastrophe the project would cause would be the residents of DHA and Clifton. “The rise in sea level will affect these areas first. And for what?” he asked and himself answered that the project had been proposed to reach the gated housing societies 14.3 minutes earlier.

“It is important to remember at this time that Malir’s green belt is one of the last few green belts left that is playing a role in mitigating the impact of climate change in Karachi,” he said, adding that the green belts in Gadap and Kathore had already been occupied to establish high-end residential societies.

“The EIA report as a means to justify the usage of this land maintains that the area being used to build the Malir Expressway has limited water resources. However, the project will in reality be destroying at least 27 wells that provide water to Malir’s agricultural land. This will also have an impact on the flow of water from smaller rivers falling into the Malir River. This will not only exacerbate the water supply issue for the whole city, but also increase the cost of agricultural produce,” Ashraf said.

He also rubbished the Sindh government’s claim that not more than eight houses would be destroyed for the expressway’s construction, saying that 210 permanent housing units and a large agricultural area would have to be destroyed. Ashraf also highlighted concerns related to endangered species in Malir that were to be affected by the project.

Published in The News By Newspaper’s Staff Reporter 07 May 2022

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