A number of irregularities in the construction work of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project have come to light after it was revealed that the contractors have been ignoring most of the directions mentioned in the No-Objection Certificate (NOC) granted to the OLMT by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Punjab.
A number of petitions have been filed against this project on various grounds, including design flaws, lack of transparency in the tendering process, its impact on the cultural landmarks as well as the environmental hazards it poses for the provincial capital.
The EPA awarded the NOC to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) for OLMT based on the conditions mentioned in the certificate. The conditions were geared to safeguarding the environment in the wake of the construction of OLMT.
The proposed site for the project is Ali Town to Dera Gujran along the GT Road to the Railway Station, across the city centre via Lakshmi Chowk, McLeod Road and Lake Road to Chauburji, before heading southwest along the Multan Road and Raiwind Road.
The project is further divided into two phases: the first phase consists of Ali Town to Lakshmi Chowk while in the second phase track will be laid from Lakshmi Chowk to Dera Gujran.
The Traffic Engineering & Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) is responsible for the construction of phase one, while the second phase is being constructed by Habib Construction.
LDA FLOUTS EPA CONDITIONS:
Interestingly, almost all the conditions imposed in NOC are being ignored by the LDA, which is badly impacting the lives of the residents as well commuters alongside the construction site.
The notion of ensuring the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) seems to hold no worth to the LDA. Hazardous air pollutants like sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxides, hydrocarbons and particulate matters (PM) 2.5 and 10 which must not exceed the NEQS, are being given no consideration at all.
The quantity of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matters 2.5 and 10 have all exceeded the safe limits of the NEQS on the construction site, increasing the possibility of respiratory diseases for workers, residents as well as commuters.
According to NEQS and the World Bank guidelines, the level of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter should not exceed 40 micro grams per cubic meter (μg/m3), 40 μg/m3 and 35 μg/m3 respectively. The levels of all these air pollutants at the construction site exceeded 90 μg/m3 according to an EPA report back in 2014. Since then, all three air quality monitoring system (AQMS) devices of the EPA have broken and there is no way for the EPA to find out what the current values of the contaminants are.
EPA, LDA PUT CITIZENS IN PERIL:
The LDA also agreed to the Environmental Management Plan (EMP), which strictly prohibits contamination of soil, ground water, air and biological resources of the project area. But the executing authority has failed to adhere to the EMP, which is creating hazards not only for humans but also for the flora and fauna within the radius of the construction area.
The LDA was asked to take effective measures for sanitation during construction and operational phase but this condition is being violated at many places. Some of the areas are facing water and sanitation problems due to the puncturing of pipelines.
Some of the worst hit areas include Thokar Niaz Baig, Iqbal Town, Samanabad, Lakshmi Chowk, GT Road and Mughulpura. In some of the areas, broken pipelines have created permanent puddles in residential neighbourhoods.
BREATHE IT IN, IT’S JUST SOLID WASTE:
A large amount of solid waste from the construction site had to be disposed of. For this, LDA had been bound to consult the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) and the city district government.
But here too, instead of disposing off the solid properly, the LDA is simply dumping it in urban areas. The solid waste can be seen in Ganga Ram Hospital, Iqbal Town and Dera Gujran areas of Lahore. Due to improper dumping, the solid waste creates dust, and harmful materials get airborne creating diseases among many of the city’s residents who may otherwise be living in areas far from the construction site.
According to the conditions, the LDA had to take effective measures to protect the patients of the nearby hospitals and residents of the area from noise pollution. For the purpose, noise barriers in sensitive areas had to be installed in the form of high boundary walls. This condition, however, is being violated at many places, which is adding to the problems of the citizens particularly the patients.
TRAFFIC, PEDESTRIANS NOT THE FIRST PRIORITY, OR TENTH:
The NOC also called for a proper plan for a smooth flow of traffic near the construction site but so far, no traffic plan is being followed by either of the contractors. Instead, hours of traffic jams on roads where thick dust hangs in the air has become a regular feature of life in Lahore.
The conditional NOC also asked to ensure that the pedestrian traffic is not disrupted. The contractors, however, have done nothing to even remotely help pedestrian traffic. No walkways have been provisioned for the pedestrians along the construction site. The LDA had been asked to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report to EPA on a monthly basis so that the EPA can assess the impact of construction to make sure that it is not creating hazards for the citizens. Sources in EPA said on condition of anonymity that not a single EIA report has been submitted since the start of construction.
EPA spokesman Naseemur Rehman told Pakistan Today that the department is monitoring the OLMT project and that they inform the LDA if they find any irregularity or problem. He further said that while the project may be affecting the residents the executing authority, LDA, is following the rules and regulations.