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CDA forms team to inspect agro-farms on SC orders

Updated September 20, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Wednesday formed a team to inspect agro-farms in the capital to point out construction violations by allottees.

The CDA had planned for agro-farms to meet the city’s requirements for vegetables, fruits and poultry, but contrary to their purpose these farms have become something of a status symbol for the rich, some of whom have built palatial homes there instead.

The CDA formed its team after directions from the Supreme Court to inspect farmhouses and determine their excess area.

In its Sept 12 judgement, the SC had reviewed its earlier decision to permit 9,500sq ft of covered area for farmhouses, conditionally allowing 12,500sq ft. In a previous judgement, the SC had fixed covered area at 9,500sq ft at the CDA’s request.

In its latest judgement, SC allows 12,500sq ft covered area for agro-farms

The SC has now allowed up to 12,500sq ft of covered area for existing construction in agro-farms. However, the lessee will have to pay a fine at a compounding rate of Rs7,000 per square foot for construction over 9,500sq ft up to 12,500 sq ft.

The three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also ruled that any payment regarding the compounding of excess area received by the CDA shall be adjusted towards the total amount payable.

“The compounding amount shall be paid by the owners of the farm houses within a period of three months from today. CDA shall within one month, inspect each and every farm house and provide, along with an affidavit of the chairman, CDA, information regarding the excess area of each farm house,” the court decision read.

It stated: “Any area in excess of 12500 sq ft shall not be compoundable and be demolished by CDA.”

The judgement added that no fee would be charged for the construction of basements, and to that effect, “our order is withdrawn”.

However, the SC stated: “Needless to observe that in future no construction beyond 9500 sq. feet shall be permissible for agro farmhouse in any circumstances and no plan in excess of the aforementioned area shall be sanctioned by CDA.”

The funds collecting by the CDA “shall be kept in a separate account to be maintained by CDA which shall intimate the same to this court for the purpose of obtaining directions about how such amount is be spent”.

When contacted, CDA Building Control Director Manzoor Shah said a team had been formed under SC directions to inspect farmhouses, and will complete the task within a month.

A notification issued by the CDA’s human resource directorate said that four officers have been temporarily attached to building control directorate I to inspect farmhouses. They include grade 17 officer Syed Ahsan Mehmood, grade 16 building inspector Tanveer Tahir, Mohammad Saleem and Ghulam Hussain.

On Aug 30, the CDA board had in principle approved new planning parameters for farmhouses that would not allow people allotted agro farms, poultry farms and orchards to use the farms beyond their set limits.

The CDA had decided that farmhouse owners would have to produce vegetables, fruit, chicken or eggs for the city according to their capacity, or action would be taken against them.

In the 80s, the CDA had allowed 2.5 acre farmhouses 2,250sq ft of covered area. This was increased to 4,850sq ft in 2003 and 10,000sq ft in 2004. In 2013, the SC had ordered the CDA chairman to restore all 504 farmhouses to agricultural land status.

At the Aug 30 meeting, then CDA chairman Ishrat Ali had expressed displeasure with the nonconforming use of farmhouses. Source said members of the CDA board were of the view that the CDA had in the past allotted plots to people on subsidised rates, and strict action should be taken against those using the facility for other purposes.

In a summary, temporary member planning Ehsanul Haq had informed the board that the CDA had launched eight agro-farming schemes in Zone IV to develop and establish agro-oriented production projects to meet the city’s requirements. These schemes were categories are vegetable farms, poultry farms and orchards.

The summary said: “Unfortunately agro farm projects in these schemes have turned into ultra luxurious palatial residences instead of their intended use. Even, many started commercial operations/event hosting sites.”

CDA officials Dawn spoke to after the SC announced its latest decision said the court had only increased covered area from 9,500sq ft to 12,500sq ft with a Rs7,000 fine per square foot.

“There will not be a major change in the gist of our board decision taken on Aug 30. We prepared the parameters keeping the 9,500sq ft maximum covered area, but now construction up to 12,500sq ft is compoundable, so we will have to revise our parameters in that context,” an official said.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2018