THE Punjab Environment Protection Department (EPD) has asked the Federal Ministry for Environment to take immediate action against the National Highway Authority (NHA) for delay in completion of the Lahore-Gujranwala section of the GT Road, which is polluting the environment.

Sources in the EPD revealed that the department had received a large number of environment-related complaints from the public with reference to the project. Majority of the complaints were related to the presence of permanent dust and increased noise and smoke on the road as well as in the localities around the under-construction road. They said following the complaints, the department recently sent a letter to the Federal Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA), highlighting the environmental issues caused by the slow pace of work on the Lahore-Gujranwala section of the GT Road. The letter maintained that delay in completion of the road was resulting in dust pollution affecting a very large number of localities as well as people living around the under-construction road.

The letter said the contractors and the NHA authorities had not taken any measures to control the dust pollution like regular sprinkling of water. The delay in completion of work on the said segment of the road had increased travel time of the vehicles due to which smoke and noise pollution had also increased in the area.

The EPD sources said the department also claimed in its letter that the NHA authorities and contractors were not following the Environment Management Plan, which was given to them at the time of awarding environmental clearance by the federal department.

The letter EPD maintained that delay in construction of road has also resulted in hindering in the required tree planting along the road while the landscaping of the road was also yet to be done. It further said the sanitary condition of the under-construction road was very poor and in case of a rain, rainwater accumulated on the road and a proper rainwater drain was must for the project.

Sources said the EPD had requested the Pak-EPA to take immediate note of the issue and serve a show-cause notice to the NHA under Section 19 of the IEE Regulations, 2000. It requested a legal action, i.e. issuance of an Environmental Protection Order or cancellation of the NOC to the NHA in case the authority made any further delay in overcoming the environmental issues.

They said the NHA started construction of Lahore-Gujranwala section of GT Road under the National Highway Improvement Programme (NHIP) Phase-II. They said length of the road was 100 kilometres and its estimated cost was Rs5,092 million. The project started in February 2006 and its estimated completion date was February 2009.

When contacted, Punjab EPD spokesman said the letter was written after the department received a lot of complaints from the local residents as well as from the road users. He said a copy of the letter was also sent to the NHA chairman.

Source: The News