‘Severe penalties for housing societies’

By Hina Kiyani

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) would take to task the housing societies violating environmental laws and green belts in the federal capital. Most of the housing societies, although approved in the federal capital were using green belts as commercial plots, she said in an exclusive talk with media. She said Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was actively holding public hearings of all development projects and housing societies in that regard. However, the ministry would further strengthen and empower EPA to take stringent action against the violators. “EPA is doing a commendable job within its limited workforce and resources whereas the ministry is also taking it seriously to scale up the EPA’s structure for better environment conservation and monitoring.” Zartaj observed that some housing societies were using parks and green belt areas for commercial purpose, which were meant for plantation. The societies had got No Objection Certificate (NOC) by declaring those areas as parks and green belts in their environmental impact assessment reports presented to EPA for approval of their projects. She said NOC of approved housing societies’ would be cancelled if found violating the law. Prime Minister Imran Khan, she said, had removed the cap for construction of highrise buildings in the federal capital that would help promote vertical skyscrapers and save the green land from destruction by the horizontal housing projects. Zartaj said Pakistan was signatory to the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury to curb use of this element causing cancer and other serious health complications. The ministry had conducted a survey of all beauty products, including skin fairness creams and cosmetics that were found highly mercury toxic with beyond permissible limits in their formulas. It was also being used excessively as dental amalgam for cavity fillings which was severely injurious to health, she added. Zartaj said the MoCC had geared up to phase out excessive use of mercury in various cosmetics and beauty products and prepared a legislation. The Ministry of National Health Services comments were awaited, which would be sent for the President of Pakistan’s ratification. Earlier, the EPA had issued notices to 26 housing societies of the federal capital to explain their respective positions for not complying with the conditions contained in their environmental approvals. According to Pak-EPA Director General, Farzana Altaf Shah, the conditions laid down in environmental approvals included proper disposal of solid waste, liquid waste, chemical waste, hazardous materials, construction of sewage treatment plants, rainwater harvesting, ground water recharging etc., and submission of quarterly or monthly progress reports of the projects. “We’ve observed that the proponents of these projects and developers are neither attending the conditions contained in their environmental approval nor are they submitting compliance and progress reports to us. All this is causing serious environmental problems like air pollution, polluted water bodies, different diseases, solid and liquid waste issues and cutting of trees in the capital city,” she told media.