Saturday September 18, 2021

Flooding nightmare: IHC directions on illegal construction in E-11, Banigala remained unimplemented

Due to massive rainfall and flash floods, the residents of the E-11 sector faced a nightmare, causing the loss of human lives and a huge financial cost as several homes were damaged and vehicles swept away by the raging waters.
July 29, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The lack of implementation of directions contained in a landmark judgment on illegal construction and unregulated urban sprawl in the E-11 sector and Banigala is a major factor behind the disaster that struck Islamabad on Tuesday.

Due to massive rainfall and flash floods, the residents of the E-11 sector faced a nightmare, causing the loss of human lives and a huge financial cost as several homes were damaged and vehicles swept away by the raging waters.

The verdict handed down by a full bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in 2018, was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Lawyer Kashif Malik had represented the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in the case.

The IHC judgment authored by Justice Minallah had challenged the construction of various types of buildings and stated that construction had been started in Bani Gala without obtaining approval from the CDA. In the E-11 sector, the construction of buildings mostly of a commercial nature has been on the rise. It was pointed out that both the E-11 sector and Banigala had not been acquired under the CDA Ordinance. In a nutshell, the issue regarding the regulation of the construction of buildings outside the acquired lands falling within the area known as the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) was raised.

In its operative part, the IHC judgment said that keeping in view the imminent danger and risk, particularly in the context of environmental degradation and climatic change, the bench is compelled to direct the federal government to forthwith take steps of constituting a commission of professional experts, preferably of international repute, in the field of town planning, environmental management and finance as it has become inevitable to review the existing Master Plan of the CDA and assess its efficacy.

The IHC appointed Dr Pervaiz Hassan, who had chaired the commission and had successfully brought all the stakeholders together, as [the head of the] committee for implementing the recommendations. The government was directed to immediately amend the notification of the implementation committee. The bench was guided in this appointment by a judgment rendered by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in a case.

The IHC ruled that no illegal building or construction will be regularized unless the government certifies, pursuant to recommendations made by the commission which has been directed to be constituted, that it will not in any manner adversely affect the environment or have adverse effects relating to climate change. The government was further directed to take immediate steps to make the environmental tribunals functional, preferably within 90 days.