The Walled City of Lahore Authority has demolished 68 illegal structures and sent notices asking occupants of the remaining 129 buildings to vacate the premises or get them repaired after a survey found 197 buildings in the area unfit for use, The Express Tribune has learnt.
WCLA spokesperson Tania Qureshi told The Tribune that the demolitions were undertaken in May and June. About the remaining buildings, she said the WCLA had sent a warning to the occupants and asked them to either vacate the building or get it repaired. “We are required to send three warnings to the occupants in a month. If the occupants fail to repair or vacate the building in time, the authority can either seek police assistance for the purpose or seal the building on its own,” she said.
Qureshi said the authority had been allowed by the Lahore High Court to initiate action against occupants of such buildings on its own. “The WCLA does not need to seek LHC’s permission in such cases,” she said.
Qureshi said the authority was regularly monitoring buildings in its jurisdiction to ensure that all buildings under occupation were fit for use.
The WCLA has classified buildings in the area under A (most dangerous), B (dangerous), and C (less dangerous) categories.
Qureshi said most buildings categorised as dangerous featured illegally constructed extensions. “The foundations of these buildings are designed based on the original building plan. The occupants have added more storeys on top of it over time,” she said.
Besides private buildings, Qureshi said the authority was regularly monitoring dilapidated public buildings in the Walled City area.
Most of the dangerous buildings were identified in Lohari Bazaar, Mori Gate, Chowk Jhanda, Chowk Bokhari, Naya Bazaar, Koocha Ghosia, Bazaar-e-Hakiman, Bhati Gate, Fort Road, Koocha Haider Pahlwan, Lal Khoo, Inside Akbari Gate, Sooha Bazaar, Chowk Choona Mandi and Yakki Gate areas.
Talking to The Tribune, Muhammad Rizwan, a resident of a building declared dangerous in Rang Mahal, said several buildings in his neighbourhood were declared dangerous by the WCLA but the occupants were not planning to get them repaired. He said most people living in the area had inherited their houses and often lacked resources to spare for the maintenance of the buildings. “Most buildings in our neighbourhood have multiple owners and often all of them are living on tight budgets,” he said.
Advocate Azhar Siddique said that under the Punjab Building Control Act of 2014, occupants of dangerous buildings could be sent to prison for a year or fined up to Rs50,000 for failure to comply with government’s warnings. However, he said that the government had mostly been lenient in enforcement of the law.
Siddique lamented the absence of a building control and regulatory authority for the city. He said in 2011 the Supreme Court had recommended that the provincial government set up such an authority for the city. The Urban Unit had drafted a proposal in this regard but there was no progress on it, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015.
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