HYDERABAD: As the Supreme Court-mandated Commission on Water and Sanitation’s ban on construction of commercial projects on industrial plots continues, the provincial government has been asked to review its policy of giving partial relief to builders. The policy, which was submitted before the commission in Karachi on Thursday, also gave hope to the builders who face an identical ban on the construction of commercial structures on the plots converted from the residential to commercial.
“The policy needs to be reviewed…and it’s expected that on review the policy will address all the issues,” ordered Justice (Retd) Amir Hani Muslim, the commission’s chairperson. He added that the issue ought to be examined in depth because it is directly linked with the fundamental rights of citizens.
“Construction of this nature without providing civic facilities has multiplied agonies of the inhabitants in the vicinity. Clean drinking water and sewerage systems have totally collapsed.” The commission imposed the ban on August 16, 2018, after visiting Hyderabad SITE area where eight ongoing commercial projects were issued notices to stop work in September, 2018, by Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA). However, at least one builder has continued construction in violation of the ban.
The Sindh government framed policy proposed that the completed and ongoing construction projects should be allowed while the projects in which construction has not started will be cancelled. Furthermore, Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate (SITE) limited will be restrained from converting the plots in the future.
“All the industrial plots which have been converted to commercial and where no construction activity has yet started, SITE limited would immediately initiate the process of cancellation of the conversion … fee so deposited would be returned by SITE limited,” the policy reads, allowing the projects “where building is constructed or where building structure is under construction”.
The policy suggested that completed commercial projects will be charged additionally for infrastructure development while tariffs will also be enhanced for SITE limited provided services and rents. The encroachments on drainage system by the commercial projects will be razed.
The commission observed that the provincial government has formed this policy without examining whether SITE limited’s board of directors is authorised to grant permission of this nature. “There is no institutional mechanism in Sindh government to address this issue. The policy has given discretion to SITE.” Justice (Retd) Muslim found that the role of SBCA in granting approval to such projects was also beyond comprehension.
Despite the ban, the construction of buildings on converted plots is continuing in Hyderabad. An office bearer of Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) admitted while talking to The Express Tribune that several builders in SITE and rest of Hyderabad have resumed construction.
ABAD in its recommendations submitted to the commission maintained that the ongoing commercial projects on the residential plots should be allowed to continue and an unambiguous rule should be made for the commercialisation in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2019.