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LAHORE: Failure of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in getting 20 to 25 per cent of LDA Avenue-I’s total area cleared of litigation is resulting in an increase in the project cost. It currently stands at Rs10 billion in the second revised PC-I that was approved in a recent meeting.

The LDA had launched this mega residential project in 2004 and at the initial stages of land acquisition, majority of landowners approached courts over ownership and compensation. The original PC-I cost of the project was Rs5.8 billion that jumped to Rs9.6 billion in the first and Rs10 billion in the second revised PC-I. Various efforts were made to get the area under litigation cleared, while those allotted plots have been awaiting possession.

“The contract for development of infrastructure of this scheme was awarded to M/s FWO with an agreement amount of Rs2.5 billion under resident supervision of M/s Nespak. At the start of this project, only 16pc litigation-free area was handed over to FWO for development, which delayed development works immensely,” according to the minutes of a recent meeting of the LDA governing body.

In 2009, after developing 59pc of the area, the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) refused to carry out further development on the contract rates. The remaining work of the scheme was now being carried out by prequalified civil contractors, and 75pc of the scheme had been developed.

“The LDA is facing difficulty in execution of remaining work. For allotment of remaining works, as and when the area is cleared from litigation, approval of the authority is required for applying fresh market rates in working estimates. The Market Rate Schedule (MRS) issued by the finance department on the website is revised biannually,” the minutes further stated.

“Every time an area is cleared for development, the LDA has to be approached for seeking revised approval of the respective component after applying prevailing MRS rates.”

Sources say the officials concerned would have to adopt a fast-track professional approach for resolving the issues of LDA Avenue-I in the best interest of the allottees rather than dealing with the case in a “typical government office style”.

“Had these litigation issues been resolved on time, not only the massive increase in project cost would have been avoided, but also enabled the government to give possession of plots to the allottees,” an official, who requested anonymity, deplored.

He suggested the LDA resolve litigation issues out of court by negotiating with the petitioners that include some small private housing schemes.

“The LDA administration should also reform its legal wing by hiring lawyers with vast experience of land acquisition and transfer and development,” the official added.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2017