ISLAMABAD: Civil society representatives and officials criticised the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Saturday for its tug of war with the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) since the latter’s inception more than four years ago.

Speaking at an online seminar on ‘Population and Sustainable Urban Practices for Islamabad’, they expressed the hope that the Supreme Court, which last month directed for the issue to be addressed within a month, would help get the MCI’s rules of business approved.

They said citizens have suffered from the illogical rift between the two organisations, as Islamabad’s civic services and environmental conditions have deteriorated in the last few years. The tug of war between the two — the capital’s managers and the people’s representatives — over funding and authority have ruined the sustainability of the entire system of service delivery, they said.

Civil society representatives highlighted that the shortage of water, the absence of domestic waste and sewage management, dilapidated roads, diminishing green cover and irrational development have marred the capital’s sustainability.

The seminar was organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) to mark World Population Day.

Dispute over funding, authority of both organisations has ruined sustainability of entire service delivery system, participants say

MCI Deputy Mayor Zeeshan Naqvi said the MCI was allocated Rs14 billion two years ago for various project proposals, but no funding has been released so far.

“The MCI cannot even use the taxes it collects from various sources because its rules of business have not been approved by the government yet. The MCI has approved schemes for small dams on eight natural streams from the foot of the Margalla Hills, improvements to sewage treatment plants, repairs and the provision of water, filter plants and the maintenance of parks. They are all possible if the funds are provided. We are handcuffed by the government, perhaps because we belong to the opposition party,” he said.

Mr Naqvi said that encroachments cannot be removed without the support of the ICT administration. Despite making requests, the MCI has not been extended the administration’s cooperation to remove illegal construction on greenbelts and in the national park, he claimed.

He added that the MCI is trying to take care of the city with its limited human resources and available funds. The collection of domestic waste has been improved while working on a landfill site, and they are trying to improve the condition of parks and to overcome the shortage of water, he said.

Mr Naqvi asked the government to begin a process of amending rules and regulations framed for the capital to ensure the rights of locals, adding that legislation is needed on contradictions in the same zone that affect the rights of citizens.

Mr Maqvi told Dawn that the MCI’s rules of business have been pending with the Ministry of Interior for the last four years.

“We used to get funds during the PML-N government, but now, as it is the PTI government, our funding has been stopped and all our projects have stalled,” he claimed, adding: “However, we hope that the SC - which directed for the issue to be addressed last month - will play its role for the passage of the rules of business. Moreover, we want to make dams for plantations, fire-fighting and other purposes. Such dams have been established in Nepal and Bangladesh and were successful.

Speaking about the new paradigm of sustainable urban management, water and climate expert Ali Tauqeer Sheikh said that the resilience of the city matters, with regard to how good its coping mechanisms are in place to face disasters, urban flooding, the impact of harsh weather, water scarcity as well as its recycling and waste management systems.

Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed said civil society representatives and experts should play their role in bridging conflicts between the CDA, MCI and the capital administration. He also urged the government to release funds so development projects could begin.

Environmental advocacy expert Mome Saleem urged the government to take immediate steps to remove encroachments from green belts and national park areas.

Solid waste management expert Saadat Ali said that a comprehensive plan is needed to segregate 750 tons of waste at the source and its disposal.

At present, he said, it is being dumped out in the open in I-12, causing air pollution and diseases while also contaminating subsoil water. He said a landfill site towards Rawat would be more suitable for waste management.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020