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NOC ‘hurdle’ puts homebuilders in a bind

September 14, 2017
The skyline of rural Islamabad is dominated by high-rises, most of which are illegally constructed. —Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
The skyline of rural Islamabad is dominated by high-rises, most of which are illegally constructed. —Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: The mushroom growth of illegal constructions has become an issue for the residents of Islamabad’s rural areas, as the civic agency has directed them to get their building plans approved before they can avail utility services.

Sui Northern (SNGPL) and the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) have now linked new connections with a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Capital development Authority (CDA).

Recently, both the treasury and opposition members of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) joined hands against the CDA decision.

However, the civic agency says its ordinance and a number of court decisions compelled it to ask the residents in rural areas to get their building plans approved before staring construction on houses and commercial plazas.

CDA’s requirement is posing problems for residents wishing to build their own homes

An MCI official said the CDA should impose a ban on commercial plazas and there should be no bar on the construction of small houses. “Instead of creating problems for owners of small houses, we should impose a complete ban on unauthorised commercial plazas,” he maintained.

Mohammad Abid, who purchased a four-marla plot at Pind Bagwal a few years ago, is now in a fix over how to start construction on his house.

“Getting an NOC from CDA is a cumbersome task. Everyone knows how the civic agency works; bribery is commonplace. For the time being, I have postponed my plans to construct a house,” he said.

“When the CDA is providing no municipal services such as water, sewerage etc, to the residents of the rural area it has no right to force them to get their building plans approved,” said Ali Awan, the opposition leader in the MCI. He said his party, the PTI, was going to start a series of protests against the CDA move.

Deputy Mayor Azam Khan of the ruling PML-N said the civic agency’s decision to link new constructions with an approved building plan was injustice with residents.

“The Supreme Court recently directed the CDA to stop illegal construction in Bani Gala and adjoining areas such as Bhara Kahu, but the civic agency started forcing all villagers to obtain NOCs before starting new construction.”

He said there should be some parameters to regulate commercial buildings in all of Islamabad, but villagers should have a relaxation for the construction of their homes.

“Take a round of the city and you will find scores of unauthorised high-rise buildings, even up to 18 storeys high. All of E-11 is a classic example and the CDA never takes any step to stop such constructions because its officials are hand in glove with the owners. But just to show efficiency, the civic agency is forcing the villagers to get NOC - a new avenue for corruption,” said M Sajid Abbasi, a member of the MCI belonging to the PML-N.

Islamabad, which is spread over 906 square kilometers, has a rural population of around one million, while around 1.3 million people are living in the urban areas. According to the 1960 master plan, CDA was supposed to acquire the entire land of Islamabad to develop it as a planned city within 25 years. But CDA failed to acquire all the land and kept focusing only on the urban area.

“Now when we are trying to get our by-laws implemented in the rural area, we are facing resistance,” said an official of the CDA’s building control section.

“The concerns of the residents are logical because our successive managements kept their eyes closed. At the same time, we are not at fault as our ordinance forces us to implement the by-laws in all of Islamabad,” he said.

He alleged that some local leaders of the PML-N and PTI, who were in the property business, were misinterpreting the CDA decision of directing residents to get their building plans approved.

“We never opposed utility connections for approved buildings. Our move is aimed at stopping illegal constructions. But the property mafia is linking it with a ban on gas and electricity connections,” he said.

Member Planning Asad Mehboob Kayani told Dawn that there was no ban on utility connections for authorised buildings.

“The construction of new houses and other buildings is linked with an approval from the CDA. There should be some regulatory check on new construction otherwise in coming years this city will become another Karachi,” he said, adding that the federal cabinet, the Supreme Court and the Islamabad High Court on several occasions had directed CDA to stop illegal constructions.

He said the CDA was mulling to legalise all existing houses and link future constructions with the approval of building plans in accordance with the CDA ordinance. He said all housing societies were also bound to get their building plans approved from the CDA.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017