ISLAMABAD: The expansion of the Islamabad Express Highway is adding to air pollution, the contamination of ground and surface water and the cutting down and re-plantation of some 500 trees, according to a five-page document released by the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA).
According to the document, the air in Islamabad is contaminated with poisonous gasses including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and the oxide of nitrogen which are emitted by construction machinery and project vehicles.
It goes on to say that since the commencement of the project in July this year, particulate matter, including dust, had increased significantly.
Pak-EPA has also expressed concerns that waste effluent and solid waste disposal, fuel spills, and oil and chemicals from the project are also contaminating the soil, which will pollute ground and surface water.
According to Pak-EPA Deputy Director Ziaul Islam, the project for the expansion of the thoroughfare was flawed from the beginning. He said the project had started in violation of section 12 of the Environmental Protection Act 1997, of which the Minister for Climate Change PML-N MNA Zahid Hamid is the author.
Section 12 makes it mandatory to submit an environment impact assessment (EIA) report with detailed information on existing environmental conditions, a description of the project, the impacts it will have on the surroundings and mitigation measures for countering the deterioration of natural settings.
“In this case, Pak-EPA had to issue several warnings, asking the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to comply with environmental laws. Since March, we have been pointing out the weaknesses [of the project] as well as proposed improvements,” Mr Islam said.
Pak-EPA officials say that the CDA is not following its own environment management plans, which was part of its EIA report and which is still being reviewed by the environment watchdog.