ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has decided in principle to regularise existing construction in Banigala under an amnesty scheme.

A meeting on Thursday, ahead of an upcoming Supreme Court hearing, discussed the chronic unauthorised construction in Banigala and decided the CDA would regulate the already-constructed buildings after adopting a procedure, but new construction in the neighbourhood will be banned.

Last year, after a request from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, who owns a house in Banigala, the SC took suo motu notice of the growing number of unregulated buildings in the area.

Since then, the court has heard the case many times, and another hearing will be held next week during which the CDA will present its amnesty scheme proposal.

Thursday’s meeting, which was chaired by Additional Attorney General Nayyar Abbas Rizvi and attended by former Sindh High Court justice Shaiq Usmani, CDA Member Planning Asad Mehboob Kayani, Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director General Farzana Altaf Shah and heads of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) and the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco), took several decisions.

Under proposed scheme, owners would seek regularisation of their property or risk demolition

Sources said it was decided that the CDA and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration should stop all construction.

The ICT administration was also tasked with enforcing section 144 against illegal construction, while the Pak-EPA will not issue no-objection certificates and SNGPL and Iesco will not issue utility connections.

Sources said Iesco and SNGPL officials told the meeting that they had issued utility connections to Banigala residents because these were a fundamental right. They said it was decided that all encroachment on acquired land, the Botanical Garden, shall be demolished.

They said participants of the meeting also agreed that Banigala is a misnomer, since there is no official name as such in the Patwar Khana records.

They said owners of properties that were constructed illegally within the national park area, two kilometres from the highest Rawal Dam watermark and the adjoining area, should apply to the CDA for their buildings or structures to be regularised by April 10, 2018.

They agreed that the lack of coordination between state organisations had resulted in the proliferation of unauthorised construction in Banigala, and that the problems the CDA is facing in launching housing schemes in future sectors was causing a lack of affordable housing for the public in a specified area.

CDA sources said the authority finalised a proposal after the meeting that stated that residential and commercial property would be regularised by the CDA after due scrutiny, safety evaluations and fees and penalties as per the schedule notified by the CDA notwithstanding the provisions of the ICT Zoning Regulations regarding Zone III.

Any structure or property not registered within the specified time frame under this scheme would be demolished at the risk and cost of the owner, it was decided.

The authority also decided that a sewerage system would be laid by the CDA as soon as possible, with extra charges to be proportionally distributed between all the owners of regularised structures. Housing societies in the specified area should lay sewerage lines, which will be regulated by the CDA.

Sources said it was also decided that further construction in violation of zoning regulations would be banned in Zone III and the national park area, and construction outside this area would be regularised as per the prevailing laws.

An official from authority said it would present the proposal before the SC, and if the court does not object, would begin to formally implement its amnesty scheme.

CDA Member Planning Asad Mehboob Kayani said, when asked about the Thursday meeting, that a meeting “was held the other day”, but added that he could not share the findings of the meeting. Mr Kayani also said that his team was working to finalise proposals regarding Banigala and “in the next few days we will submit out proposals in the SC”.

Director Environment Irfan Niazi, who also attended the meeting, said: “Steps are being taken to resolve the issue of Banigala, but at this stage I can’t share proposals.”

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2018