AJK govt to resolve environmental issues caused by hydropower projects: AJK president

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MIRPUR: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan on Thursday clarified that there is no ambiguity among the general public about the environmental problems caused by some hydropower projects and the government is serious to resolve these issues.

He was speaking as chief guest at the Central Bar Association in AJK’s metropolis.

“In this regard, the AJK government wrote a letter to the federal government after assuming the office,” he said.

The AJK President 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).

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

President Masood Khan 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 the 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.

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

About the situation in Indian Held Kashmir, the President pointed out that more than 500,000 Kashmiris had laid down their lives for the right to self-determination since 1947, which would not go in vain. “Allah willing, the day is not far when our oppressed brothers and sisters across the bloody ceasefire line would witness the dawn of freedom.”

The President noted that though there had been a winsome change with regard to Kashmir in many parts of the world that civil societies, media and human rights watchdogs were openly talking about Indian bestiality, yet unfortunately the governments of some powerful nations were keeping mum about it for their political and economic interests. “We have to work harder than ever to break this silence,” he said.

The AJK President termed bilateral talks with India a futile exercise and said dialogue should always be tripartite because Kashmir issue had three parties and of them, the Kashmiris were the principal party.

He urged the lawyers to make all bar associations of Pakistan active on Kashmir issue. “Apart from discussing the situation in India held Kashmir in internal meetings, lawyers should also highlight Indian atrocities through social networking and micro-blogging sites,” he said.

He said lawyers should also play a proactive role to ensure rule of law in the country, coupled with the provision of speedy justice to the masses.

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

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