Four years on, the Lyari Development Authority (LDA) continues to repeat its promise. The promise it has been making every year to develop land, build infrastructure and hand over plots at the Hawksbay Scheme-42 to the middle-class investors, who risked their entire lifesavings in the project.
In its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, again the LDA has set aside Rs500 million in the name of development at the residential scheme. This time, the funds will supposedly be spent on developing an additional 2,000 acres in the area to carve out more plots for sale. The existing owners, meanwhile, wait for their investment to bear fruit.
Around 9,000 people have invested hundreds of millions of rupees in Hawksbay Scheme-42 to purchase plots ranging from 80 to 400 square yards. At least 30 per cent of them have the land possession, but not a single house has been built.
However, LDA Finance Director Agha Shafiq Durrani tends to disagree. “The infrastructure is there. We have built the streets, and laid the sewerage system and the water pipelines,” he said. “The only problem [at Hawksbay Scheme-42] is the absence of a main approaching road and we are working on that.”
The only hope for these investors is the LDA’s plan in the upcoming budget to spend Rs120 million on construction of a road to link the locality with the Lyari Expressway. “Now it is up to the people to build their houses there,” Durrani said.
But the plot owners have seen the value of the land at the scheme drop by more than half over the years. A 400-square-yard plot that people had bought for Rs1.2 million a few years ago now only fetches them Rs200,000.
Ayaz Ali Khan’s brother had bought him two 400-square-yard plots. “We believed in LDA’s credibility as it is a government institution. We were hopeful of appreciation in the plots’ value. After all, the DHA was also a desert just a few years ago,” said Khan.
It has been six months since he advertised for the sale of plots. “People are offering me around 35 per cent of the original price,” he said. “Considering the way LDA is working, I am even thinking of cashing in at a loss.”
The Hawksbay scheme was first launched in the 1990s and remained dormant for about 15 years as successive governments ignored it. Then in 2008, around 9,000 plots were sold through public auctions.
Despite repeated attempts, the LDA did not disclose how much money it had raised from the sale of the plots and how the money was being utilised. Durrani also refused to share the LDA budget details, saying the Board of Directors are yet to approve the numbers.
But one look at the way the LDA officers are spending money on new furniture and offices suggests that this year’s budget would be a hefty one. LDA Director General Agha Maqsood Abbas used to sit in a small office at the Civil Centre. Now he has a whole building for himself.
There is much more: security guards; a secretary; a waiting room with split air-conditioners; a conference room; and a squad of officers, who avoid media.
For Ayaz Ali Khan, this is particularly painful. “Why can’t they shift their office to the project site to at least give us some encouragement,” he suggested.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2012.
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