Friday, November 30, 2012

LHC directs federal govt to construct KBD

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday directed the federal government to implement the decisions of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in letter and spirit on the construction of the Kalabagh Dam (KBD).
The CCI, in 1991, had approved the construction of KBD and in 1998 it held its meeting again and took decisions to formulate a strategy for securing financing and other technical assistance for the construction of KBD. Under Article 154, parliament can only undo decisions of the CCI in a joint session and this decision would be final.
In the short order, LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that the energy shortage had adversely affected the lives of citizens and violated their fundamental rights, guaranteed under Article 9 and 25 of the Constitution. Therefore, the federal government is directed that in the performance of its duty under Article 154 of the Constitution, it shall in letter and spirit take steps to implement the decisions of the two meetings of the CCI held in 1991 and 1998 regarding the Kalabagh Dam.
The LHC CJ passed directions while disposing of nine different petitions moved by a former chief technical advisor of World Bank and others seeking orders for construction of the KBD. Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique had also represented one of the petitioners, Shamil Paracha.
The court’s short order says that the Constitution confers a pre-eminent position to the CCI to formulate and regulate policies for the federation in relation to a number of subjects including Water and Power.
It adds a decision of the CCI has obligatory effect unless the same is modified by parliament at the instance of the federal government under Article 154(7) of the Constitution.
“In the present day of shortage of available electric power in the national grid, scarcity and depletion of irrigation water resources for arable land in the country and the frequent occurrence of floods in the Indus riverine basin has adversely affected the quality and security of life of the citizen in the province of Punjab and the country as a whole. The resulting degradation in the quality and conditions of life of the affected citizen violates their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 9 and 25 of the Constitution.”
“In the circumstances and for detailed reasons to follow, the federal government is directed that in the performance of its duty under Article 154 of the Constitution, it shall in letter and spirit take steps that implement the decisions of the CCI of 1991 and 1998 regarding Kalabagh Dam.”
The orders speaks that the bona fide steps by the federal government in the foregoing behalf are necessary, so that the fate of the project is not sealed on the basis of presumptions and surmises when in the light of the material produced before the court about the project is admittedly feasible both technically and economically.
“It is therefore directed that whilst implementing the afore-noted CCI decisions the federal government shall faithfully strive to explore and devise an administrative framework and safeguards that allay the apprehensions, political or otherwise nurtured by concerned quarters about the KBD,” the order says.
The court has directed the federal government to take steps expeditiously in this regard to comply with the provisions of Article 154 of the Constitution by effectuating the will of the CCI.
As court resumed hearings on Thursday, a senior Joint Secretary of the CCI Shahzad Iqbal submitted copies of the decisions made in two meetings of the CCI held in 1991 and 1998.
Quoting the reports, he informed the court that in 1991, the CCI had given approval for construction of the KBD and in 1998 the CCI again held its meeting for re-viewing progress of the project.
One of the reports regarding decisions of the meeting of the CCI held on May 9, 1998, he said it was decided that Wapda should carry out updating of technical studies related to the projects under NWRDP (National Water Resources Development Project).
The report added that a document should be prepared on the issues involved in the construction of the KBD based on the studies carried out so far and explain the issues to the target groups within a maximum period of eight weeks.
It was also decided in the CCI meeting that supplementary projects should also be prepared in support of the KBD and identify those necessary to mitigate its effects for dovetailing with the proposed project and overall cost of the KBD project should also remain viable.
The meeting had also tasked Wapda to formulate a strategy to market the KBD project as package including addressing political and technical concerns that had been raised over time. These issues and the solutions should then be projected to the respective target groups individually as well as on the electronic media.
The meeting had just asked to prepare a revised KBD project in the prescribed format (PC-I) for approval by the competent authority, and also prepare a booklet on the environmental and resettlement issues arising from the construction the KBD.
The meeting had decided to formulate a strategy to seek financing for the KBD project from different sources, the report added.
The CCI further decided to form a committee, headed by the minister for Petroleum & Natural Resources and Inter Provincial Coordination comprising all the provincial chief ministers and chairman of Wapda to examine all issues relating to effective utilisation of water resources in the country and to identify the projects which needed to be implemented on a priority basis. The committee should also oversee the implementation of the decision, the report adds.
Earlier, advancing arguments Barrister Mian Belal Ahmad, counsel for the World Bank’s former legal advisor Bashir A Malik, said an Indian court had also resolved a dispute arising between Tamil Nadu and Kerala states over the construction of a Mullaperiyar dam, and the LHC should also play its role to resolve the dispute of KBD.
The court heard the arguments of all parties and disposed of the petitions after giving directions to the federal government to implement decisions of the CCI.

No comments: