AJK suffering environmental issues, should be redressed: Sardar Masood

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MUZAFFARABAD: AJK President Sardar Masood Khan clarified on Thursday that while there is no ambiguity among the public about environmental problems caused by some hydropower projects, the government was not negligent either in getting these issues addressed.

In fact, the first letter Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had written to the PTI led federal government shortly after its inception was about the same issues, said the president, in his address as chief guest to the Central Bar Association, Muzaffarabad.

Mr Khan asserted that the federal government had dispatched a high powered commission of experts to AJK at the latter’s urging to assess the environmental hazards and other problems spawned by Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP).

The commission had prepared its report and another high-powered commission was scheduled to visit Muzaffarabad to hold talks with the AJK government for redress.

The president acknowledged that entire AJK population was concerned about the environmental issues that people of Muzaffarabad were facing after the commissioning of NJHP. “But let me tell you serious efforts are also being made to address these issues,” he maintained. 

“Our viewpoint is crystal clear that River Neelum should always have 20 cumecs of water [downstream Nauseri] and that not only the environmental impact studies of all hydropower projects, including Kohala Project, should be conducted and written agreements with the AJK government should also be inked before the groundbreaking ceremonies,” he added.

Continuing, the president said he also stood for other demands, such as installation of sewer treatment plants and augmentation of the capacity of Great Water Supply Scheme Makri to meet the drinking water needs of Muzaffarabad without any interruption.

Mr Khan told the audience that several delegations had also called on him with a demand that excavation of tunnel for Kohala Project should be avoided to stay away from the same kind of environmental issues that had emerged after tunneling for the NJHP.

He maintained that Neelum and Jhelum were the common asset of people from Muzaffarabad to Mirpur who shared same thoughts and approach vis-à-vis these rivers.

On AJK’s share in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the president said that AJK had got four projects under CPEC and of them one in energy sector had been completed while the remaining three were yet to be initiated.

Earlier Central Bar Association president Maqboolur Rehman Abbasi, AJK Bar Council vice chairman Chaudhry Shoukat Aziz, senior lawyer Raja Amjad Ali Khan and others also spoke.