Chief Justice takes suo motu notice of Canal widening; orders no trees to be cut
LAHORE, Nov 27: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Friday took suo motu notice against proposed chopping of trees in the provincial metropolis to widen Canal Road.
Chief Justice Chaudhry directed the authorities concerned to put their plans of cutting the trees on hold and summoned the chief secretary and the environment secretary on Dec 1 at Court House in Islamabad.
The chief justice took notice on applications moved by two NGOs namely the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) and the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT), seeking a restraining order against proposed cutting of trees to widen Canal Road.
Earlier, Dawn reported in its Nov 26 edition that environmentalists, conservationists and civil society activists had sought help of the CJP to save hundreds of trees likely to be felled during Eid holidays to pave the way for widening of Canal Road. Through an application to the CJP, they had said the Punjab government was planning to widen Canal Road from Thokar Niaz Beg to Dharampura underpass at a hefty cost of Rs3.15 billion, without fulfilling its obligations under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, and the chief minister had announced that work on the project should be started.
“The project envisages felling of over 5,000 mature trees and taking away 51 acres of green land from the general public. Road widening is also against the master plan of the city and suffers from major defects in terms of urban planning and transparency.
Previously, an EIA was conducted for the Rs700 million project, but citizens overwhelmingly rejected it at the public hearing. A case is pending with the Lahore High Court against the EIA for the previous project,” said the application moved by the concerned citizens gathered under the banner of Shajar Dost.
They had feared that during the Eid holidays, the priceless, speechless trees would be the first casualty of this development project.
Conservationist Dr Ajaz Anwar had told Dawn that some three years ago, Lahore was deprived of a historical asset during Eidul Azha holidays.
“Haveli Mian Khan was built during the regime of Emperor Shah Jehan. It was spreading over acres — from Rang Mahal to Mochi Gate. Gradually it fell victim to commercial vandalism – the beautiful and priceless structures were replaced with ugly plazas and shops. Only a wall and its main entrance near Rang Mahal had survived but it was also demolished during Eidul Azha holidays three years ago by the men of one Raju Pehalwan with the patronage and connivance of some government officials,” recalled Dr Anwar who had been the founding secretary of Lahore Conservation Society and a senior faculty member of the National College of Arts.