CDA set to revise building by-laws for Diplomatic Enclave

ISLAMABAD – Succumbing to what an official termed “the immense pressure of the country’s premier spy agency,” the city managers have finally started working on revision of building by-laws for Diplomatic Enclave, ostensibly to reduce storeys the under-construction US Embassy Complex.

The proposal that is under consideration of the city managers is to limit the height of buildings in Diplomatic Enclave up to ground plus five storeys, confided a concerned official who is privy to these developments.

The CDA Director General (Planning) was supposed to give a presentation to CDA Board regarding aforementioned changes in current by-laws for diplomatic area. Though the issue was made part of the agenda of CDA Board meeting held on Wednesday here at Jinnah Convention Centre, it was not discussed for some reasons, the sources said.

Earlier, only ground plus three storeys were allowed, but CDA in year 2007 after revising its building by-laws for the area had allowed construction up to ground plus seven storeys.
And the matter of fact is that the construction plan of ground plus seven storeys structure of the under construction US Embassy Complex was approved by CDA under the currently enforced building by-laws.

Current by-laws provide construction of eight storeys, that is ground plus seven storeys, with covered area of 300 per cent of the plot area, 40 per cent ground coverage for ground floor, open space of 30 feet each on front and back while 20 feet on side areas.

Recently, a spy agency has raised several objections regarding the construction plan of the US Embassy. The spy agency in a letter written to CDA had sought explanation from the city managers how it approved ground plus seven storeys structure of the embassy.

According to the content of letter, one could easily keep an eye on important and sensitive government instalments including Presidency, the Prime Minister House and the Parliament from such high rise building in the diplomatic area.

The agency had also directed the city managers to take appropriate action over the issue and immediately limit the height of the US Embassy Complex by revising its by-laws for buildings in the area.

In January 2012, a committee comprising CDA officials and representatives from the Planning Commission, Emergency and Disaster Management, Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners have approved the US Embassy site plan and consequently CDA has issued no objection certificate to the US authorities regarding new complex.

“The CDA had contacted the concerned officials of the spy agency before awarding NOC to the US authorities, but at that time they (spy agency) had raised no objection,” said the official, adding and now when construction of Embassy was in full swing as per rules and regulations they are directing us to revise building by-laws.

“At this point if we ask the US authorities that they could not go beyond ground plus five storeys, they (Americans) would take us to International Court of Law,” the official apprehended.

When asked why the spy agency wanted to limit the height of embassy complex he said, “Apparently, to exert pressure on the US authorities in the backdrop of the “ever worst” relationship with the US which has plunged to its lowest level since Salala Check Post attack.”

Another official when contacted said to avoid complexities; the CDA would offer 50 per cent ground coverage instead of currently enforced 40 per cent. “We will ask the US authorities that though we have limited the height up to ground plus five storeys but against that we (CDA) are offering extended ground coverage to cover up the loss,” the official said.

Chairman CDA Engineer Farkhand Iqbal was tried to contact for his comments over the issue but he was not available, while other concerned officials refused to share the details in this regard on the record.