Where have those ‘rare’ bottle palm trees gone?

News item Abdul Manan

LAHORE: The Environment Protection Department (EPD) has alleged that the Punjab Sports Board (PSB) and Communication and Works (C&W) Department cut down about 100 ‘rare’ bottle palm trees in the last 10 days to build a swimming pool, but the latter two authorities have refuted the allegation.

About 100 trees and a patch of little trees at Nishtar Park, Gaddafi Stadium, have been removed to build a swimming pool in the area.

The EPD says the trees have been cut down without first taking a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the authority. The PSB, however, says it has got the NOC and that no trees have been cut down while the C&W says no rare trees ever existed in the area.

Younis Zahid, a deputy district officer in the city government, said the PSB and C&W removed the trees between January 16 and January 26. “The city government already submitted its Site Inspection Report (SIR) to the EPD on January 26 about the removal of the trees,” he said.

The six pages long SIR says the PSB and C&W are “environmental offenders”. The report reads, “The transplantation of these could be done but the executing agencies, the C&W and PSB Department, were extremely apathetic regarding the transplantation of these rare palm trees… The PSB and C&W blindly cut down the trees in the last ten days.”

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) deputy director Naseemul Rehman said every project must receive an NOC before its commencement. He said the NOC was issued under Section 12 of the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997. “Section 12 says that if a body removes the trees for construction of a new project, the body will have to assure that the same trees will be planted in another place in lieu of felled trees,” he said.

Rehman said neither the PSB nor the C&W had yet contacted the EIA for an NOC. “The case has been referred to the EPD director,” he added.

Sources in the city government confirmed that the EPD director had received the case and he would soon take action in this regard under Section 16 of the PEPA against the authorities concerned of the PSB and C&W.

PSB director general brig (r) Farooq Yaqoob said the PSB had received an NOC for the project. “It is untrue that trees have removed from the site in the last 10 days,” he said. “Yes, trees were removed to construct a swimming pool, but it was four months ago and not now,” he added.

C&W secretary Muhammad Ahsan Raja said no rare tree ever existed at the project’s site. “The C&W only takes projects that fulfil the EIA’s requirements,” he said and added that if any such issue existed then, he would probe the matter.

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