Islamabad, Aug 23 (PTI) Pakistan's Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) has defended the construction of the Sailing Club on the banks of Rawal Lake here, saying it was built following the directives of the federal government and after obtaining approval from environmental experts, according to a media report on Sunday.
Last month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had ordered the sealing of the Sailing Club on the grounds of it violating environmental laws. The order was issued after the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and a Pakistan Navy official failed to justify the 'illegal construction' near the rain-fed and man-made reservoir.
The IHC, while allowing naval officials to resume maintenance and repair of boats, had issued a stay order against all commercial activities till September 9 in the club built by the Pakistan Navy.
CNS Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, in a written report submitted to the IHC through counsel Ashtar Ausaf Ali and Raja Zahoorul Hassan, asserted that the facility maintained by the National Water Sports Centre (NWSC) was 'neither a club in the traditional sense nor is it a commercial enterprise'.
The CNS, who is ex-officio, patron-in-chief of all water sports in Pakistan including yachting, rowing, water skiing and canoeing, said that the Water Sports Centres were at various places in the Rawal Lake after the consultant's report on environmental impact of the project.
He said the government issued permission to set up such facilities through a decision of the inter-ministerial meeting chaired by the Minister for Environment/Urban Affairs on September 22, 1992.
The report said a detailed study was carried out by the consultancy firm in November 1993.
It contained a detailed evaluation of the water sports project at Rawal Lake, including guidelines as to how the centre's building was to be designed and built.
On March 8, 1994, the Pakistan Navy wrote a letter to the CDA chairman for earmarking land at Rawal Lake for implementing the government directive.
On August 15, 1994, the Prime Minister Secretariat issued a letter to the CDA chairman for preparing a report as to how Rawal Lake could be utilised for water sports without causing pollution or contamination of water.
Later on September 9, 1994, the Prime Minister's Secretariat approved the NWSC at Rawal Lake and directed the cabinet division to authorise provision of land and release of funds by the finance division. However, due to paucity of funds the cabinet division on December 14, 1994 asked for restricting the programme to one site and directed the CDA for initiation of action under intimation to agencies concerned for provision of land for National Rowing Centre at Rawal Lake.
On October 30, 1998, the Naval Headquarters requested the CDA chairman for provision of land in the light of the prime minister's directive without delay for establishing the National Water Sports Centre.
Subsequently, the correspondence continued for formal allotment of land for the Water Sports Centre, which had already commenced on makeshift arrangements in 1994.
The present structure is only an upgraded version of what had been established some 25 years ago, according to the report.
In 2018, it was decided to upgrade and renovate the existing setup at Rawal Lake in accordance with international standards and requirements of the Olympics Federation while strictly following environmental parameters, it explained.
As per the naval chief, the upgrade of the facilities to the international standard would help in tapping young talented men and women in the north and training them in water sports to compete at international level.
The report said that professional divers were also stationed at the Centre to assist the civil administration. PTI SH IND IND