LAHORE: A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Asad Munir, on Monday, while declaring the construction of Kalma Chowk flyover in public interest allowed the Punjab government to continue with the construction work.The bench, on March 28, had provisionally barred the provincial government from doing any construction on the site of the Kalma Chowk flyover project. During the proceedings on Monday, provincial government’s counsel, Ahmed Rauf, requested to declare void the stay order as the project was in larger public interest. He submitted that after the construction of the flyover, 50 percent noise and air pollution would decrease which was caused only due to the congestion of traffic.He said there would be 100 percent more greenery at the spot after completion of the project and it was launched to reduce the traffic congestion. He requested that the government should be allowed to complete the project.
Petitioners’ counsel Rafay Alam, while opposing this request, submitted that there were so many other chowks where frequent traffic jams took place, like Qartaba Chowk and Canal Road. He asked as to why the provincial government was exclusively making a flyover at the Kalma Chowk.During the proceedings, Additional Advocate General Muhammad Hanif Khatana submitted that the court can impose penalty if a prior NOC is not acquired for continuing the project. At this, Justice Bandial held that in case of imposing penalty, the project would also be demolished. After hearing both the parties, the bench while taking back the stay order on Monday, held that from carrying out the project no environmental damage can be seen, therefore in the public interest the construction of the flyover is allowed to proceed.The bench directed the provincial government to submit its plan of traffic control in the city and asked for the plan to be submitted until April 24. Earlier, a single bench comprising Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, on March 14, had dismissed the appeal, saying that the court could not halt a project that benefits majority of the people and poses harm for a comparatively less number of people. However, later petitioners from the Lahore Conservation Society and some others filed an appeal challenging the decision of the single bench.
Petitioners’ counsel, Ahmad Rafay Alam, had requested that the order of the single bench be set aside and the sanction of the project be declared illegal and in violation of the provisions of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA), 1997, and the Punjab Procurement Rules, 2007. Alam had earlier submitted that the summary of the project disclosed that the Punjab Communication and Works Department had requested an allocation of Rs 1.2 billion for the year 2010-11 and had asked the National Engineering Services Pakistan Limited (NESPAK) to make the engineering design of the project and had also assigned the project’s execution to the National Logistics Cell (NLC).He said that Punjab Chief Minister (CM), Shahbaz Sharif, had approved the summary of the project on March 5. Alam said this project would spread a lot of pollution, raising large quantities of dust and other particulate matter into the atmosphere. He requested that as an interim relief, the construction should be halted and the respondents should be directed to conduct an EIA of the project. – Dailytimes