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RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC) is finding it difficult to take action against illegal buildings constructed before 2001, as it cannot use old records.

The deputy commissioner has directed the RMC to open up the basements of shopping centres for parking space, but the corporation is having difficulties with regards to pre-2001 buildings.

“The old records of the building department are too fragile as they were damaged in the devastating 2001 floods in the city, and it is creating problems for the civic body to take action against illegal structures,” a senior RMC official told Dawn.

He said most records were destroyed, and when the old files were brought out they were torn or too damaged to read.

Old building dept records too fragile to handle after they were damaged in flooding, officials says

The official added that the RMC is facing difficulties acting against all high-rise buildings in the city as well.

There are two types of illegal construction in the city areas, he said.

“Some were constructed before the formation of building by-laws in 2009, and the remaining afterwards.”

Before the 2009 by-laws were introduced it was not compulsory for high-rises to allocate parking space in the basement. Such buildings were constructed along Murree Road, from Chandni Chowk to Shamsabad.

Under building by-laws, buildings higher than three storeys are banned in the city areas, and no shopping centres or commercial buildings can be taller than 30ft. High-rises are banned around Chandni Chowk due to the area’s proximity to the Benazir Bhutto International Airport’s runway while no construction over 30ft is allowed under civil aviation laws.

The building branch also cannot approve architecture plans lacking fire safety measures during various stages of construction, but they have not sought the opinion of the Fire Services Department before issuing completion certificates.

High-rises are also banned in the downtown area under the RMC’s by-laws, but structures more than four storeys high have been built as RMC building wing officials look the other way.

The building branch is not to approve architecture plans without fire safety measures during various stages of construction but often the opinion of the Fire Services Department is not sought before issuing the completion certificate.

When contacted, Rawalpindi Municipal Officer Buildings Shahzad Haider confirmed that the authority’s records from before 2001 are too fragile to consult, so we will have to handle them carefully.

He said the RMC had decided to ask the owners of all commercial buildings to submit their building plans that had been approved by the corporation. The stamps and signatures on the approved plans will be checked.

Mr Haider said there is also a shortage of staff at the branch to handle records.

“We computerised the new records but it was not possible to computerise the old records,” he said.

He said computerisation is difficult, but they are considering scanning the old paper. He said that while they are having difficulty acting against pre-2001 buildings, “we are bringing the old files carefully and it takes time to check them”.

Many buildings in the city were also constructed before 2009, before the by-laws were introduced, and have no parking facilities in their basements, he said.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018