Appellants fear the step poses a big threat for the environment
The Sindh Environmental Protection Tribunal on Monday dismissed the appeal filed by advocates Shahab Usto and Zubair Ahmed Abro against the new rules and regulations framed by Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).
However, the tribunal restrained the government from notifying and publishing the regulations till August 28.
The tribunal said new regulations have been approved by the provincial cabinet and therefore, the appeal is infructuous.
SEPA issued a notification in January stating that it is seeking changes in the SEPA Act, 2014.
In the new rules, SEPA has exempted industrial and residential projects from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.
It has shifted all such projects from the EIA checklist to Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) checklist.
In the new regulations, SEPA has eliminated the requirement of an EIA report from builders/developers of high-rise buildings.
Before the introduction of SEPA’s new regulations, an EIA report was mandatory for high-rise buildings taller than 15 floors and built on a 2000 square yard or larger plot.
The SEPA has also allowed EIA report of 50-acre land for construction of housing schemes. The limit was set at 10-acre before the introduction of new regulations by SEPA.
The SEPA officers said the amendments in regulations are meant to guarantee the ease of business.
They said the Sindh cabinet has approved the SEPA new regulations in its cabinet meeting held in July, adding that the Sindh Environmental Tribunal has dismissed the stay order and has allowed SEPA to make changes in the regulations after August 28.
Abro, who is an environmental lawyer, told SAMAA Digital that the new regulations have showed the “mala fide intentions of Sindh government and SEPA.”
He said he will challenge the decision in the Sindh High Court despite its approval by the cabinet.
“The new regulations will make a dangerous impact on the environment and eco-system and will affect people at large,” Abro said.
He said the new SEPA regulations also ignored the need of public consultation.
He said he would also challenge the framing of the new rules and regulations without carrying out Strategic Environmental Assessment as provided under Section 18 of the 2014 Act. Framing of these rules and regulations without public consultations also a violates Article 19A of the Constitution, he said.
He said that the EIA report requires public hearing while the IEE report does not, which means that the government is authorised to give clean chit to the builders and developers for carrying out their mega projects without consultation of general public.
Usto, an experienced laywer, told SAMAA Digital that SEPA, through the introduction of new regulations, has ended the procedural requirements for any mega project.
“The EIA report is necessary before starting any project, so that the evaluation of positive and negative impacts on environment could be assessed with the its help,” he said.
“SEPA has made changes in regulations just to please the builders.”
Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) have also expressed their concerns over the decision.