• A majority of farms turned into palatial estates in violation of rules
• 35 cattle farms fail to comply with original purpose

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had allotted as many as 551 agro farms for paltry sums a few decades ago to make Islamabad self-sufficient in fresh and dairy produce, but instead of contributing towards their original purpose, a majority of these farms have been converted into luxury houses, right under the nose of the civic agency.

The practice also raises a major question mark on the efficiency of the CDA, which takes action against small-time vendors on a daily basis.

“On a daily basis, the CDA teams can be seen taking action against small vendors, but they have never taken any serious action against the misuse of agro land,” said an official. “Instead of focusing on small vendors, the CDA should first take action against these [influential] violators to establish its writ,” the official suggested.

These farmhouses of various sizes are mostly located in Zone IV with 463 such allotments, followed by 17 each in Zone I and Zone V. These farms are located in various areas, including Park Road Chak Shahzad, Kahuta Road, Murree Road, Tarlai Kalan, Sehana, and H-9.

Sources said since the 1970s the civic agency had launched the agro schemes for to encourage the production of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and poultry in the capital. However, only a few agro farms are being used in accordance with their original purpose of allotment.

The CDA had allotted the majority of the plots against nominal charges while the numbers of plots were also issued to land-affected people. Besides, around two dozen plots were auctioned.

However, instead of contributing to the needs of the city’s population for agriculture and poultry products, these farms, particularly those along Murree Road and in Chak Shahzad, are being used for luxury housing.

Failure of CDA

The CDA, on the other hand, failed miserably to implement its by-laws regarding these agro farms. In fact, it kept allowing the owners to enhance the covered areas of luxurious houses. Initially, only 2250 square feet of covered area (construction area) was allowed, then it was increased up to 5000 sq feet, then the owners were allowed to carry construction up to 9500 sq feet. While, in case of extra construction from 9500 to 12500 sq feet, the owners will have to pay a fine.

As per CDA’s by-laws, owners of orchards are required to plant fruit trees, 150 per acre, with cultivation of vegetables on 80pc of the land. Similarly, owners of poultry farms are required to produce 4,500 broilers per month besides 9,000 layer chickens with a daily production of 5,000 eggs.

Sources in the CDA said the majority of the original owners had sold their farms mostly to people from the elite class, who have turned these farms into palatial residences. In the past, sub-division of these farms was also allowed, but it was subsequently banned. Last year, the CDA once again allowed the sub-division.

Separately, 65 farms ranging from two acres to 12 acres were allotted for cattle farming in the 1970s Dairy Farm Kahuta schemes. These farms were supposed to provide dairy and meat to the city but like the agri farms, they also failed to comply with their purpose.

Sources said that 35 of these farms were being used for poultry and dairy farming while 30 farms were either vacant or involved in the non-conforming use of the property. “Each cattle farm has a sufficient space for slaughtering as well, so these facilities should be properly used for cattle farming, their marketing (cattle markets), and slaughtering purposes,” another official said.

When contacted, CDA spokesperson Kamran Aslam said that a survey was being conducted of all agro, poultry, and cattle farms and the CDA would take action against violators in light of this survey.

Asked why the civic agency has failed to get agro and poultry products from these facilities for inflation-hit residents, he said, “Well, I have already informed you that after the completion of the ongoing survey, we will take actions…we will also ensure the conforming use of all farms.”

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2024

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