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LAHORE: The LDA City housing project is likely to be squeezed from 58,000 to 40,000 kanal or so as the authorities may not be able to acquire a chunk of over 17,000 kanal at Mauza Toor Warraich due to land consolidation (Ishtmal) issue.

Moreover, the section 4 of the land acquisition act announced for acquiring the aforementioned land has been suspended by the court, it is learnt.

“Ishtamal means consolidation of the land occupied by the growers in small pieces. Consolidation is always done by the revenue officials (patwaris etc) under the law. And whenever the officials start process in this regard, disputes over location and value / cost of the land etc emerge since every landowner wants consolidation of his / her scattered pieces of land at good location. So in a situation like Mauza Toor Warraich, it will be difficult for the government to acquire non-consolidated land of this mauza,” said an official of the Lahore Development Authority.

“Moreover, the section 4 imposed for acquiring land of this area has also been suspended by the court due to non-consolidation of 17,000 kanal in this mauza,” the official claimed.

The LDA governing body had approved launch of the project on May 25, 2011 after issuance of a notification under section 18 of LDA Act, 1975 on May 20. Subsequently, another notification under section 13 (3) of the law was issued on Oct 27, 2011, regarding announcement of execution of the scheme. The notification under section 4 (1) (2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was issued on Nov 24 about the acquisition of over 58,000 kanal in Mouzas Halloki, Toor Warraich, Thay Panju, Sidher, Rakh Jhedu, Katcha and Kahna.

When asked why the government imposed Section-4 of the act for acquiring Mauza Toor Warraich’s land in 2011 despite knowing about the Ishtmal issue, he said actually the area was surrounded by the land being acquired by the LDA through development partners. The government perhaps thought that as the process to acquire the land and develop such housing projects takes a considerable time of 15 to 20 years, the consolidation of 17,000 kanal could be done meanwhile, enabling it to acquire the same with development of the land side by side.

The LDA City housing project continues to be in trouble for the last couple of months after the National Accountability Bureau launched a probe into its affairs following several complaints related to files in excess of the land available or mutated in the name of the LDA. Since there are 9,000 people / affectees who purchased files of plots, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took up the issue.

The court also ordered six days ago that the committee comprising the Punjab chief secretary, the provincial housing minister, the officials of the NAB, the LDA and others should submit a report within 10 days regarding the resolution of the issue.

Talking about the ongoing exercise to compensate 9,000 affectees in the form of giving them plots, the official said at present 14,000 kanal existed / mutated in the name of the LDA. This included a compact piece of 5,000 kanal while the remaining 9,000 kanal were scattered and development could not be made.

“The development partners being probed by NAB say that they may acquire around 4,000 kanal more connecting the scattered pieces of 9,000 kanal. In this way, they claim that there would be 13,000 kanal available for the project’s phase-1 where 9,000 affectees could easily be accommodated.

Similarly, they say that the compact piece of 5,000 kanal can be used for the scheme’s phase-2 with acquisition of further 6,000 kanal connecting this.

The official said likewise the remaining land (17,000 kanal) situated in the mauzas other than Toor Warraich could be acquired at a later stage for developing the phase-3. The total land (excluding the 17,000 kanal of Mauza Toor Warraich) for the project would be 41,000 kanal or so.

“The LDA will be happy if it succeeds to develop the scheme on 41,000 kanal,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2019