KARACHI, April 26: The Civil Aviation Authority has not issued its no-objection certificate for the construction of a 47-storey IT tower being built in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, it has been learnt.

However, the Karachi Building Control Authority maintains that the CAA’s NOC is not necessary for the IT tower, which will rise to over 600 feet, as it is the city government’s project.

Meanwhile, sources said the project had found so much favour with the KBCA that it was ignoring the fact that work on the site had got under way despite the fact that the relevant building plans still remained unapproved.

Normally builders have to get the building plans of their projects approved by the KBCA before they could start the construction work.

The sources said that the project, a joint venture of the city government and a Malaysian company, would be delayed if the issue with the CAA was not settled.

The project is reported to be bringing in a huge amount of direct foreign investment.

The sources said that the city government had offered its two-acre prime plot located next to the Civic Centre, worth roughly Rs3 billion, and the Malaysian company – IJM Construction – was bringing in $200 million.

The IT tower, which will house call centres, a luxury hotel, offices, etc after its completion in about a couple of years will generate roughly Rs25 billion, which will be shared by the city government and the Malaysian company.

Responding to Dawn queries, the CAA’s corporate manager of air traffic services said that all private builders and government organizations constructing high-rise buildings had to obtain an NOC from the CAA. He said the CAA reviewed the plans and height of the proposed buildings under the National Airfield Clearance Policy and requirements of flight safety.

He said the CAA had given an NOC to the city government’s and Malaysian company’s IT tower near the Civic Centre for the height of 182 feet only. He said the KBCA had also obtained a copy of the National Airfield Clearance Policy from the CAA. He added that the KBCA, on its own, could not give an NOC to any project and the NOC must to be issued by the CAA only after which the KBCA could approve the building plans.

He said if a building was constructed above the height allowed by the CAA, a notice was served on it and later the building was demolished. “Flight safety cannot be compromised regardless of the fact that a private builder or a government agency is constructing the building,” said CAA official Anjum Hafeez.

Answering questions by Dawn, the outgoing chief of the KBCA, Rauf Farooqui, who was in charge of the IT tower project, said that the CAA’s NOC was required only by private builders while the IT tower was a government project for which no CAA NOC was required. The KBCA had obtained a copy of the policy from the CAA and after the project plans were reviewed under the CAA policy by the KBCA, it was found that its proposed height of 600 feet was okay.

He agreed that the project had been delayed slightly, adding that the Malaysian company took longer to generate funds from the international market which took more than expected time.

Another reason was that the foreign company had three partners and one of them was an Indian national, he said, adding that the country’s security agencies expressed concern about it. So the Indian national had to be replaced and the legal matters involved took some time, the outgoing KBCA chief said.

Asked if the plans had been approved by the KBCA, he said that the plans were being prepared and would be ready soon and the work on the project would begin by June “positively” and would be completed within 30 months.

He, however, did not agree that the KBCA was looking the other way while the work on the project on the site had already started which was against the KBCA rules, and said that only exploration activities to test the strength of the soil was being carried out and the project work would start only after the plans were approved by the KBCA.

Mr Farooqui said that not only the city government would make huge profits from the project, but over 30,000 IT professionals – candidates for the project have already been short-listed -- would also get employment opportunities in the call centres located in the tower.

The sources, however, said that heavy earth-moving machinery had been used on the site for over a month now. They added that massive excavation had been carried out and hundreds of dumpers carrying soil from the site left a deep pit which would most probably be used for the basement. A huge quantity of steel and other construction material had also been moved in.

A company employee told Dawn that the project was having some problems with the CAA, which was not allowing the height of the building to be more than 150 metres. If the height of 150 metres – that could accommodate about 38 floors -- was to be observed, a luxury hotel planned for the top nine floors could not be constructed, and not only the entire building plans had to be reviewed but even the economics of the project would be changed. He, however, was hopeful that the local partner – the city government – would take up the issue with the CAA and have resolved it amicably.

The sources, however, said that if the CAA stuck to its 182-foot height limit, the entire project might have to be scraped. They added that the project might become financially unfeasible as only between 15 and 20 floors could be built in that height, which could not generate enough profits for the partners – the city government and the Malaysian firm.

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