Turning the deputy commissioner's (DC) propositions for a result-oriented anti-encroachment drive into an order on Tuesday, the Sindh High Court summoned the provincial finance secretary over a matter pertaining to the provision of funds worth Rs1.73 billion for roads' expansion in Hyderabad. The Hyderabad circuit bench, comprising Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Arshad Hussain Khan, also extended the deadline of the ongoing operation launched to demolish the structures built on state land in Hyderabad by 30 days.
During the hearing, Hyderabad DC Fuad Ghaffar Soomro, who is leading an anti-encroachment drive in the city, submitted a 51-page progress report of the operations carried out in the month of February.
The report contained a set of 15 recommendations, all of which were converted into an order of the court by the SHC, making their implementation a compliance of the court order.
The bench noted in its order that the DC's recommendations, if implemented, would prevent renewed encroachment on the recovered land.
"The parties [to the litigation], their learned counsels and officials present in the court supported the said recommendations by agreeing that the same are in the best interest of Hyderabad city and its citizens," the bench observed. "Accordingly, with their consent, the following recommendations are made 'rule of this court'."
The court also noted that serious efforts had been made by the administration for the implementation of the SHC order.
"Therefore, his request is allowed with directions to him and his office to ensure that all remaining encroachments are removed within 30 days and a compliance report is filed immediately thereafter," the court stated.
In the report, Soomro contended that the inability of government departments to utilise the retrieved land for suitable purposes encouraged squatters to reoccupy the land and nullify the efforts made during gruelling anti-encroachment operations.
"The district administration has conducted a feasibility study for expansion of the roads, especially in areas where the operation has taken place recently," the report stated.
According to the district administration's estimates, Rs1.73 billion will be required for the said purpose.
"[It] shall ease the flow of traffic congestion and give a better look to the city," the report said.
According to the DC, betterment charges, which are collected for commercial buildings by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA,) Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) and Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), are seldom spent on improving the city's infrastructure.
As per the existing formula, the SBCA and HMC receive 40 per cent of the betterment charges each, while the WASA is paid 20 per cent.
The DC proposed that WASA should be provided 60 per cent from the betterment charges, followed by HMC at 30 per cent and the SBCA at 10 per cent.
"The amount should be spent in half a kilometer radius of the approved project," he suggested.
Soomro, who blamed the HDA and SBCA for unbridled expansion of the city, emphasised that there was a need to declare and limit zones for high rise buildings and commercial activities in the city.
"There is a dire need to impose a complete ban on multistory buildings on Wadhu Wah and many other main roads," he has stated, adding that no building structure taller than ground plus two stories should be allowed on those roads.
The DC urged the court to order an immediate stop to the conversion of plots from residential to commercial. "Large-scale conversions have played havoc to the fragile and old infrastructure of water supply and sewerage system…massive conversion of land by the HDA and HMC has adversely impacted the quality of life," he said.
The recommendations also pointed out the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company's (HESCO's) disinterest in properly aligning electricity poles and requested for adequate alignment.
The DC suggested the removal of power generators from footpaths and green belts and the construction of parking plazas and mandatory parking space in all commercial projects to stop roadside parking.
The recommendations identified the cattle farms as a major source of blockage of the sewerage system and called for immediate sealing of the farms operating in the residential and commercial areas. The placement of the Anti Encroachment Force under the DC; regulation of private schools, restaurants and roadside hotels to avoid traffic congestion; and lifting of debris by HMC and QMC within 48 hours of the operation, are among other recommendations.
The SHC has also summoned chief of HESCO and regional director of SBCA at the next hearing on March 11.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2021.