Private housing scheme emerges on Margallas

ISLAMABAD, May 3: As if stone crushers had not caused a significant destruction to the tail-end of the Margalla Hills, citizens of Islamabad have also started gnawing and causing environmental damage to the pristine setting.

A private individual has cleared acres of land in Zone III starting from behind Sector D-12 and stretching towards the Shah Allah Ditta village to the west, carving out roads and plots for a private housing scheme.

The sight is hidden behind small hills deep into the Margalla Hills. The development came into notice of the estate department of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) when some of its officers visiting D-12 discovered an illegally constructed dirt road on the state land running over a hill and disappearing behind it into Zone III that was the Margalla Hills National Park territory.
Although the CDA is now aware of the development and trying to determine the limits of its acquired land (beyond D-12) and the boundaries of the Margalla Hills National Park, the civic agency is almost a year too late.

The green has been cleared, dirt roads zigzagged up and down hills and eight to 10 feet high rock cut out from the hills. Concrete walls surrounded giant allotted plots and a palatial residence has also come up, completely disfiguring the untouched land.

The estate department had reasons to believe that all the construction was illegal. “Some portions of the housing scheme have encroached on the CDA land and the other is in the National Park territory,” said a senior official of the estate department.

Over the years, the CDA has been gradually acquiring land starting from Noorpur Shahan heading west in the direction of the G.T. Road.

It has also acquired land in Saidpur and Gokina villages but stopped short of the Mauza Shah Allah Ditta because of shortage of funds. Acquiring the remaining belt stretching to Peshawar G.T. Road was in the pipeline.

However, according to the official, the national park area was not clearly demarcated.

To make matters worse, there were no building regulations for areas not acquired by the civic authority, giving private holders the power to use properties for whatever purposes.

And worst still, although the Margalla Hills was declared protected in 1980s, the CDA has so far made no arrangement to stop the sale and purchase of the un-acquired land at the foot of the hills.

The owner of the private housing society had cut through the hills and leveled five marla plots and up to 10 kanals plus properties. According to the construction staffs present at the sight, the new housing society stretched over 3,000 kanals.

“We have a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the CDA,” said one construction staff.

But the planning department of the CDA said it had not approved any layout plan of any private housing society in the Margalla Hills. “Clearing of land, allotments, construction or any kind of development in the protected area is not allowed,” said an official in the planning department.

The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-Epa) was also unaware of the construction of the housing society in the Margalla Hills.

According to one of its officials, without submitting an environment impact assessment (EIA) report, all constructions are illegal.

“The EIA report is mandatory before even laying a single brick to understand the environmental damages that can possibly be caused from the movement of trucks, the dust kicked up and damage to the natural environment etc,” the official explained.Chairman CDA Tahir Shahbaz directed his estate officers to look into the matter immediately.