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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet, led by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has approved amendments to the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) master plan allowing private housing schemes in sub-zone C of Zone IV of the capital.

Thursday’s cabinet decision will benefit dozens of illegal housing schemes, including Bahria Enclave, Ghouri Town, Eden Life and Royal City.

Private housing societies cannot operate in Zone IV-C under the CDA’s existing zoning regulations, although many have been doing so.

Private housing schemes permitted in Zone IV, sub-zone C; medical city allowed in I-17

The cabinet decision will pave the way for societies that have been declared illegal because they are located in sub-zone C but h otherwise meet the CDA’s criteria to be approved by the authority.

CDA officials Dawn spoke to said the 2010 cabinet had only approved government-run schemes on acquired land in this area, even though the CDA had sought approval for private housing societies on unacquired land as well.

In the mean time, several private schemes have been established in the area; there are a total of 64 illegal housing schemes in Zone IV, and many of them fall in sub-zone C.

The matter of private housing schemes in sub-zone C has frequently been taken up by a subcommittee of the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, where Senator Kalsoom Parveen has said that not allowing private housing schemes in the area is discrimination, and private individuals hold more land there than the government.

The Senate committee had recommended that the CDA change its regulations so that these private schemes can get approval from the CDA.

“A Senate subcommittee has been taking up this issue during the last few months, and the CDA also thinks there should be no bar on private housing schemes on unacquired land, so we pleaded that private schemes should be allowed in sub-zone C of Zone IV,” a CDA official said while explaining why the summary was sent to the cabinet.

Asked if the move was made to benefit the influential operators of housing schemes, the official said: “No, we sent the summary because we thought there is a lacuna in our police, as only government owned schemes are allowed in sub-zone C, and there is a bar on private schemes.”

In the original master plan developed in 1960, Zone IV was reserved as a park area for semi-urban development.

The federal government made changes to the zone in 1992 and 2010, when housing schemes were permitted to operate in sub-zone B.

Although the original plan had also suggested comprehensive revisions every 20 years, successive governments have never made any such attempts. Rather, selective amendments have been made that have resulted in a lack of civic planning in the city.

However, the CDA board recently approved a summary that said the master plan would be revised in the next two years.

CDA officials told Dawn that in the past, successive governments made changes to the master plan without proposing alternatives. For example, if an industrial sector was converted to a residential one, the government should have proposed an alternative industrial sector as well.

A CDA official said that according to the plan, I-8 was to serve as a centre for transport services. It was then turned into a residential sector in 1990 without reserving space for another transport sector, which the city has lacked to this day.

Medical city in Islamabad

The cabinet also changed the master plan to allow a medical city in I-17, originally an industrial sector which has now been made an institutional sector.

The CDA board had recently approved land for a medical city, which will be developed by the military-run National University of Medical Sciences.

The ‘city’, which will be spread across the sector, will include a 4,000-bed hospital, an organ transplant centre, a medical college, nursing college and other facilities.

The CDA board had also approved the change of use for the sector from industrial to institutional, subject to approval from the federal cabinet.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2018