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ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has pointed violations of its by-laws in more than 110 agro-farms that would yield nearly Rs2 billion in fines if regularised by their owners.

Sources in the authority told Dawn that despite significant relaxations permitted for the regularisation of agro-farms in Islamabad by the Supreme Court, more than 50 farms could not be regularised until they removed construction beyond the limit set by the court.

The covered area of buildings on these farms exceeds 12,500sq ft. In a judgement issued last month, the SC had allowed 9,500sq ft of legitimate covered area and up to 12,500sq ft with a fine.

Regularisation of violations would yield nearly Rs2bn; more than 50 farms exceed conditional 12,500sq ft covered area allowance

The SC had also ordered the CDA to conduct a survey to determine the volume of construction in farmhouses.

The survey found that of a total of 541 farmhouses, the covered area in more than 110 farms exceeds 9,500sq ft, sources in the CDA said. These farms can be regularised after a Rs1.8bn fine.

There are more than 50 other farms that are non-compoundable, with construction exceeding 12,500sq ft.

A CDA official who asked not to be named said that for the farms where construction is over 12,500sq ft, “we have to conduct an operation to bring the construction down to 12,500sq ft to regulate them with a fine”.

The CDA had planned and allotted 541 farms in the capital to meet the city’s requirements for vegetables, fruit and poultry, but some owners have built palatial homes on the farmland instead.

A CDA official who was involved in the survey said several politicians, retired army officers, retired judges and businesspeople were among the allottees of the farms.

Retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and former Senate chairman Wasim Sajjad are among those whose farmhouses exceed the limit of 9,500sq ft of covered area, he said.

“I can’t share whether the construction in these two farms is over 12,500sq ft, but yes it is true that the covered area in these farms is over 9,500sq ft,” the official said.

Officials from CDA’s planning wing said that the CDA had allowed 2,250sq ft of covered area in the 1980s. This continued to increase over time, now reaching 9,500sq ft and 12,500sq ft with a fine – five times the original allowance.

These farmhouses also produce little; Islamabad’s more than 2 million residents are almost fully dependent on other cities for vegetables, fruit and poultry products that are sold at higher prices, as local products are generally considered cheaper.

The SC has allowed 12,500sq ft of covered area for existing construction in agro-farms with a fine of Rs7,000 per square foot for construction that exceeds 9,500sq ft up to 12,500sq ft.

The SC ruled: “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.”

For the survey, CDA officials said inspection teams visited Poultry and Vegetable Scheme II Chak Shahzad, where a total of 117 farmhouses were inspected. Of these, 31 exceeded 9,500sq ft of covered area and 16 exceeded 12,500sq ft of covered area.

A total of 114 farms were inspected in Orchard Scheme on Murree Road, where 32 exceeded the 9,500sq ft limit and 16 exceeded the 12,500sq ft limit.

In the Poultry and Vegetable Scheme Tarlai Kalan, the covered area in 12 out of 75 farms exceeded 9,500sq ft and in four cases exceeded 12,500sq ft. Of the nine farms in the extension of this scheme, one exceeded the 9,500sq ft covered area allowance.

Of a total of 38 farms in the Poultry and Vegetable Scheme Murree Road, 13 had covered area that exceeded 9,500sq ft and five exceeded 12,500sq ft. Officials said construction violations were also pointed out in the H-9 Orchard Scheme, and the poultry and vegetable schemes on Kahuta Road and in the Sehana Extension.

In August, temporary CDA member planning Ehsanul Haq told the CDA board in a summary that the CDA had launched eight agro-farming schemes in Zone IV to develop and establish projects of agro-oriented production to meet the city’s needs.

“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,” he wrote.

CDA spokesperson Syed Safdar Ali said the survey has been completed and its findings would be presented before the SC.

He added that farmhouses whose construction exceeds 12,500sq ft will face a demolition operation by the CDA.

“We will conduct operations against farmhouses where the covered area is beyond the set limits without taking any pressure. Our policy is to conduct operations across the board and there is no question of influential and less influential; we will go against these farmhouses on the directive of the SC,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2018