In terms of provision of basic facilities, life at the 10 recognised or ‘legal’ katchi abadis of the capital is as bad as in the over 43 settlements the civic agency terms illegal and plans to demolish.
Out of a total 52 irregular settlements across Islamabad, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) acknowledges as ‘legal’ some 10 settlements and has a comprehensive but yet-to-be-implemented plan of up-gradation and rehabilitation of some six slums at their existing sites and relocation and resettlement of the remaining four.
The 42 informal settlements in the CDA record are illegal and the city managers have recently submitted with the Islamabad High Court a plan to demolish them. One of the settlemetns, the Afghan Basti at sector I-11, was demolished recently while implementing the first phase of the aforementioned plan.
Azmat Masih, a staffer of the CDA’s sanitation wing and a resident of one of the 482 households in the 100 Quarters — the city’s oldest recognised slum in Sector F-6/2 — has been forced to use illegal means to electrify his house.
Masih, 52, recently hooked up an illegal electricity connection from a nearby house against a monthly payment of Rs700. “Last year, Iesco disconnected the sole electricity connection backed by a 200KVA transformer to the locality over non-payment of dues,” he informed.
Later, it was decided that individual electricity meters would be installed against each household, he shared.
It took the community members several months to obtain the mandatory no-objection certificate (NOC) from the CDA for this purpose contrary to the fact that the slum is legal and the authority is bound to upgrade it and provide basic living facilities to its dwellers, Masih said.
And when the civic agency issued the NOC, it was conditional and only those who had enough money managed to get separate electricity meters, Masih added.
“Instead of paying huge sums of money and visits to different offices, I like several other households decided to get connections, though illegal, from nearby houses by sharing a monthly amount,” he explained.
The six slums that the authority is supposed to upgrade their at existing locations include Tent Colony in Sector G-7/1, 66 Quarters in Sector G-7/2, 48 Quarters in Sector G-7/3, Katchi Abadi in Sector G-8/1, 100 Quarters in Sector F-6/2, and France Colony in Sector F-7/4.
Like 100 Quarters, the rest of the five slums have been facing a similar situation and their dwellers are forced to live under inhumane conditions. Absence of formal sewage, electricity, and water supply systems makes the lives of thousands of legal slum inhabitants miserable. Majority of the population in these legal settlements is of low-income earners.
CDA Spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said on the persistent demand of the F-6/2 slum dwellers, CDA had issued the NOC. “It has been made conditional so that untitled settlers of this locality could not get electricity connections,” Sajid said.
He said CDA had been facing a problem of illegal expansion of these legal settlements with the passage of time, adding that the authority frequently carries out operations to demolish illegal structures.
Up-gradation and rehabilitation of these slums is an ongoing process and enough funds are available with CDA for the purpose, said Sajid. He said during the operation, CDA would not only target illegal settlements but also cut to size the illegally extended recognised settlements.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2015.