LDA auctions off 13 properties

LAHORE, Sept 18: A committee of the Lahore Development Authority on Tuesday auctioned 13 properties.

The auction of four school sites, seven commercial and two residential plots in housing schemes and other places at Rs168.84 million was held at LDA Community Centre at New Muslim Town. LDA vice-chairman Aamir Asghar Dar supervised the process.

A school site at Abdalian Society, measuring three kanals and over 18 marlas, was auctioned at Rs550,000 per marla whereas its base price was fixed at Rs180,000 per marla. The second site situated at Abid Town, measuring two kanals and 12 marlas, was auctioned at Rs280,000 per marla against the base price of Rs210,000.

A site in B-block of Campus View Society, measuring three kanals and eight marlas, was auctioned at Rs260,000 per marla against the base price of Rs200,000 per marla.

A site at A-block of Campus View Society, measuring two kanals and 18 marlas, was auctioned at Rs220,000 per marla against the base price of Rs200,000.

Among the seven commercial plots which were also auctioned, the maximum bid of Rs1.135 million was offered for commercial plot No 422 Block-D2 (Johar Town), measuring 324 square meters. Similarly, price of Rs860,000 was offered for plot No 418 (Block D2, Johar Town), measuring 324 square meters.

Two residential plots of Sabzazaar Housing Scheme, bearing No 715 and 716 (Block-D), were sold through open auction at the rate of Rs285,000 per marla and Rs275,000 per marla, respectively. Continue reading

Work on flyover begins without Sepa approval

KARACHI, Sept 18: Work on the Ayesha Manzil flyover, which was formally launched with Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad laying the foundation stone of the project on Monday, has begun without the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation having obtained mandatory permission from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, it emerged on Tuesday.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) or initial environmental examination (IEE) of major projects like this has to be conducted and its approval has to be obtained from Sepa before the start of work, according to environment experts, who termed any such work carried out without environmental watchdog’s approval illegal.

The Sepa chief confirmed to Dawn that the question of giving approval did not arise, because no EIA report related to the flyover project had yet been submitted.

A KMC official argued that so far only some piling work had been initiated and tests were being conducted to see if the land could bear weight/ pressure etc, and ‘actual work’ had not yet started.

He added that they intended to conduct the EIA and obtain approval from Sepa before starting the ‘actual work’.

The KMC plans construction of four flyovers — one each at the Ayesha Manzil, Water Pump, Dak Khana and Teen Hatti intersections — to ensure smooth traffic flow between Sohrab Goth and Guru Mandir on one of the major traffic arteries of the city.

The foundation stone of Ayesha Manzil flyover, one of the four to be constructed, was laid on Monday while the foundation stones of the rest of the three, according to a KMC spokesperson, are expected to be laid this week.

Responding to Dawn queries on Tuesday, SEPA Director General Rafiuddin said that under Section 12 of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, work on the project could only be started after its EIA had been approved.

To ensure that a project was environmentally safe and sustainable, he explained that an EIA study was conducted and its report along with an application was submitted to Sepa for approval before the start of work.

After receiving the EIA report, Sepa invites public objections through the media and a public hearing is organised where all the stakeholders given the opportunity to raise their concerns regarding the project, according to the Sepa chief.

It was only after this exercise that Sepa in the light of objections raised and experts’ opinion took a final decision on project’s approval and fixed conditions if needed, the director-general explained.

He said that if any work was carried out before the project’s approval by Sepa, it was deemed illegal and in violation of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997. Legal process was initiated against the violator under Sections 16 and 17 of Pepa 1997 by the agency which was then taken to the environmental tribunal, he added.

The law prescribes long prison terms and heavy fines for the violators.

In this case, Mr Rafiuddin said, the KMC had not yet submitted the EIA report to Sepa nor had it applied for permission or an NOC. “Obviously, no approval has thus been given,” he said.

He told Dawn that he was leaving for a meeting in Islamabad, but he had directed an official to initiate the process and a notice would be sent to the KMC on his return, most probably on Thursday.

When contacted, KMC Ayesha Manzil flyover project director Mohammad Taha said that ‘actual work’ had not yet started as only some piling work and tests were being conducted to see if the land could bear weight / pressure.

He said: “An EIA study regarding the project will be carried out and submitted to Sepa to get its approval / permission within the next few days.”

The work would start only after Sepa gave the go-ahead, he added.

Sources said it had become a normal practice that project executors did not conduct EIA or IEE study and submit its report to Sepa to get its approval before starting the project until the issue was highlighted in the media.

The private parties after being caught quickly get over with the process, while the role of government organizations was even worse as they keep on dragging the issue as had happened in the case of the Gizri flyover, which was constructed by the Defence Housing Authority, and the EIA approval was finally granted by Sepa when the flyover was nearing completion, the sources said. Continue reading

Housing units’ monetisation plan to change Islamabad character

ISLAMABAD, Sept 18: The skyline of the federal capital is set for a dramatic overhaul if all goes according to the Capital Development Authority’s plans.

Dawn has learnt that the civic agency’s urban planning wing is drafting blueprints for skyscrapers in sectors G-6 and F-6 on land that currently has 2,251 government residential units. The plan proposes a special zone over an area of 371 acres of mixed use with high-rise development on the lines of that in Hong Kong.

In a communication with the newspaper, chairman CDA Farkhand Iqbal defended the plans as a means of “economic generation”.

“We are hoping to generate handsome revenue from the sale of government residences,” he said.

Indeed, some insiders claim that it is expected to fetch around Rs147.5 billion from local and foreign investors.

The skyscraper proposal landed in the office of the Finance Minister a few months back, and he directed the Planning Commission in August to evaluate the political fallout of the plan.

The monetisation of housing units of federal government lands had been approved in April, and a complete revision of existing planning parameters, rezoning and land re-classification had been expected.

“An official had informed the outgoing Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that housing federal government employees in F-6 and other posh localities of the sector is just wastage of precious land,” added an official, who has been part of different meetings on monetisation of housing units.

“Only eight per cent of federal government employees are housed in residential facilities owned by the federal government, 20 per cent live in rented accommodation and 70 per cent get house rent allowance,” said the official.

According to a presentation of the CDA, the skyscraper project would be part of the Planning Commission’s ‘New Framework for Economic Growth’, and would have apartment buildings and commercial plazas as well as new public sector buildings.

“CDA  also wants the government to establish a Real Estate Development Company to prepare business plans to attract local as well as international investors for investment in the special zone of mixed use high-rise development,” maintained one senior official of the CDA board.

On the other hand, a key official of the federal government, not willing to share his name said: “It’s more like raping the capital city of its green character since skyscrapers will be established on government residential areas in the most quiet and serene sector of F-6.”

“The losers will be none other than civil servants and a number of defence establishment officials living in posh federal government accommodations in different parts of the city,” added the official.

“The government wants to benefit someone highly influential and this whole process is quite shady,” insisted the official.

An official of the Public Works Department shared a similar opinion: “It’s just a pilot project and the whole drive will render thousands of federal government employees homeless and government will be paying just a limited compensation in terms of house rent to its employees in the future.”

Likewise, a federal secretary told Dawn: “It’s quite strange on the part of the PPP government that it wants to sell the whole of the Islamabad to foreign investors and the original master plan of the city is ignored by the Prime Minister’s office and the Presidency.”

But the CDA chairman Mr Iqbal claimed: “Nowhere in the world does a civil servant hold over 1000 sq yd accommodation but in Islamabad this is common.”

The chairman CDA asserted: “This concept will help us meet the modern development trends since CDA will be developing 25-storey towers and commercial plazas. The first few floors of the plazas will be designated for commercial purpose while the rest of the floors will be residential apartments.”

When asked if Islamabad will lose its green character besides the civil servants will be left without accommodation, replied: “The government wants to generate funds and frankly the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has shown his keen interest in the proposed plan.”

“Islamabad will not lose its green character and it’s wrong to say that future construction will damage city’s serene face,” claimed the chairman.

He said that media should attach no controversy with this plan since it is not meant to support any mighty or powerful developer.

Mr Iqbal insisted: “The proposed project will be implemented but I can’t give an exact timeframe for that.”

A federal government employee working in the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development told Dawn: “We will approach the Supreme Court if things go the way the PPP government is planning for monetisation of the housing units.”

He said it was quite strange that without consulting any officials the PPP government was politically motivated to go ahead with the plan. Continue reading