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KARACHI: The Supreme Court-mandated commission on water and drainage in Sindh on Thursday expressed serious concern over conversion of industrial plots into commercial ones and observed that the practice had adverse bearing on sewerage system and water supply in Karachi, Hyderabad and other cities.

The commission head, retired Justice Amir Hani Muslim, directed the chief secretary to appear before the commission with the proposed plan on the issues relating to conversion of the status of industrial land into commercial after three weeks.

“The Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate (SITE) does not have any plans for provision of sewerage systems or water supply schemes and it borrows such facilities from other civic agencies,” Justice Muslim observed.

He observed that the conversion of industrial land into commercial by SITE and Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) had multiplied problems of residents of cities. “The SBCA has abused its authority by according approvals and never sought NOCs from the authorities that were responsible for providing basic amenities,” the commission head remarked.

He observed that a detailed hearing was required to thrash out all these issues.

The chief secretary assured the commission that neither the SITE board nor any department, constituted under provincial laws, would allow change of land use and allow raising construction on the industrial plots proposed to be used for commercial purposes.

The commission took the chief secretary’s undertaking on record and warned that non-compliance in this regard would result in commensurate consequences.

Justice Muslim remarked that issues were simple but the authorities had complicated them. “The industrial plots have been allotted to SITE by the Board of Revenue under Colonisation Act with the objective to promote industries within the province,” he said.

The commission head said that the industrial plots were being allotted to different persons within SITE through a board which had 15 members. “Out of 15, eight are members by virtue of their offices as ex-officio, whereas seven members are from private sector who are elected by industrialists,” he said and added that managing director of SITE and secretary of industries were appointed by the provincial government.

“The concept that after allocation of land by the Board of Revenue, SITE becomes proprietor is ill-conceived,” he said further clarifying that any allotment made by SITE through its board would not authorise it to change the land use status.

Justice Muslim observed that any law either under the SBCA or otherwise could not be applied as far as change of land use allotted for industrial purpose to commercial purpose by the SITE was concerned. “The Board of Revenue is the custodian of state land and the only authority that allots state land under Section 10 of the Colonisation Act,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2018