Members of a committee formed to delineate peripheral urban areas discussed the challenges of displacing housing schemes built illegally in agricultural areas at their second meeting on Monday.
The committee was formed recently to “ensure that agriculture land/green areas are saved at reasonable levels to provide oxygen to congested localities,” according to a city government notification.
The meeting on Monday, chaired by Aslam Mughal, president of the Institute of Planners Pakistan, considered which housing schemes should be allowed to remain and which should not.
Masood Tamanna, the executive district officer for municipal services and a member of the committee, told The Express Tribune that any housing scheme adjudged to be in an agricultural area will be referred to a conflict resolution committee.
At the meeting, some members suggested that rather than declaring certain green regions as agricultural areas, they should be declared protected environmental protected zones, because agricultural areas could be easily denotified and converted to commercial or residential areas.
Tamanna later told The Tribune that this proposal was not viable as the there was no such classification in the land use rules. “The area has to be declared an agricultural area in order for it to be protected,” he said.
A committee member said that housing schemes built on agricultural land more than three years ago would be legally difficult to displace, since before the Land Use Rules of 2009, the status of such schemes was a grey area.
However, Tamanna dismissed this concern, saying that there were land use rules before 2009 too.
The Lahore Development Authority recently declared 101 housing schemes in the city illegal for violating zoning rules. The city government has stopped the transfer of property in these housing schemes by freezing the issuance of No Objection Certificates from the District Office of Special Planning which was not given.
Dr Nasir Javed, the Urban Unit project director, said that calls for these housing schemes to be allowed to facilitate the people were misplaced. He said that most of these housing schemes were for rich people. He said it was important to concentrate on development in crowded urban areas such as Harbanspura and Shahdara.
The possibility of declaring peri-urban areas in Burki and Bedian was also discussed.
LDA Chief Metropolitan Planner Waseem Ahmad Khan said that it was essential that development in these areas be controlled.
The city government has also formed a committee – consisting of the additional collector (revenue), the irrigation chief engineer and the chief metropolitan planner – to assess the khadar (river bed) area in the city.
Khan, the chief metropolitan planner, said that various proposals for the khadar area were being discussed. One was for the entire area to be declared a national park. An older proposal called for the Communication and Works Department to turn the area into an artificial lake, but at Rs35 billion, it was too expensive. He said that the park would fall in the jurisdiction of Sheikhupura district, but since there were plans to form a regional development authority for Lahore and neighbouring districts, this would not be a problem.
A member of the river bed committee told The Tribune that there were some 400,000 kanals of khadar area in Lahore. He said that several years ago it had been as suggested that the khadar area consisted of just 472 kanals.
A representative of the Ferozepur Industrial Association demanded that an area off Ferozepur Road near Hadyara Drain be declared an industrial area like the Sunder Industrial Estate. He said that 400 industrial units already existed in the area.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2012.