LAHORE: A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC), comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Asad Munir, while hearing an inter-court appeal, extended the stay which restrains the Punjab government from initiating any construction on the site of Kalma Chowk flyover project at Ferozepur Road.
An additional advocate general on behalf of the provincial government on Wednesday requested the court to withdraw the stay order, however, the court directed him to “first file a reply and then ask for such a relief.”
The bench directed the Punjab government to file its reply until April 11.
The bench, on March 28, had provisionally barred the provincial government from carrying out any construction work on the site of Kalma Chowk flyover after hearing an intra-court appeal that challenged dismissal of a writ petition against the project.
The bench had ordered that the construction work should be done only when the authorities had court’s prior permission.
“Currently, the only activity on the site is that of road drilling work on metallic portion of the roads, which does not damage the environment in any way,” the bench said, adding that this activity is permitted, however, no other construction work shall take place until the next hearing.
Earlier, a single bench comprising Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry on March 14 had dismissed the petition observing that the court cannot stop a project that benefits majority of the people and harms a relatively less number of people.
Petitioners from the Lahore Conservation Society and others had filed the appeal challenging the single bench order.
Petitioners’ counsel, Ahmad Rafay Alam, had requested that the order of the single bench be set aside and the sanction of the project be declared illegal and in violation of the provisions of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA), 1997, and the Punjab Procurement Rules, 2007.
He said that the sanction of the project, engagement of National Engineering Services Pakistan Limited (Nespak) and National Cell (NLC), the commencement of work at the site, all violated the public’s fundamental right of a clean environment.
Alam submitted that the project has resulted in the felling of dozens of plants and trees, devastating the biodiversity of the area. He also said that the project’s site is close to major residential and commercial areas and the noise from the construction site would cause adverse environmental effects.
Alam requested that the sanction of the project be declared illegal and in violation of the provisions of the PEPA, 1997, as well as the Punjab Procurement Rules, 2007. As an interim relief, he requested that the construction work on the site be halted. He added that the respondents should conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project and should also submit it to the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency for approval in terms of the PEPA, 1997.
Separately, an additional advocate general, Zakaur , on the instructions of the project’s director, stated that funds have recently been released by the government for obtaining an EIA of the project from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). He said that design and other plans for the project have also been submitted to the EPA for their study and assessment.