The country’s capital eagerly awaits a review of its masterplan
The 17-member Federal Commission, constituted by the federal government in the light of the Islamabad High Court’s judgment to review Islamabad’s master plan, is being criticised for delaying the finalisation of the plan.
At the outset, the commission was expected to present its report in six months. However it missed the deadline. The second deadline granted the commission one more month to complete the task.
Further, despite the approval of its request for proposal (RFP) in March, the commission, headed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman, has failed to hire foreign consultants.
"The commission produced the report within the second deadline," says a member of the commission requesting anonymity. "When they produced the report, the federal cabinet and Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed displeasure over the findings of the report. They directed us to replace some private members of the commission." Out of the 17 members of the commission, nine are from the private sector.
The Islamabad High Court in its July 2018 judgment (WP No.676/2017) had directed the federal government to constitute a commission comprising experts, preferably of international repute, in town planning, environmental management and finance.
The commission had suggested engaging technical consultants through an RFP to conduct about 20 studies required to amend the masterplan. The areas of studies included socio-economic issues, environment, transportation, water resources, unauthorised slums, unauthorised construction, re-development proposal for katchi abbadis, unapproved settlements and flood analysis, culture heritage preservation and sanitation. The RFP was approved in March 2019 but the appointment of consultants has still not been made.
The federal cabinet constituted the Federal Commission under the Martial Law Regulation No 82. It states, "Under Clause 4 (1)(a)(ii) of the Martial Law Regulation No 82 (known as Pakistan Capital Ordinance 1960) a restriction was imposed to the effect that no person shall within the capital site convert any land being used for purposes of agriculture to any other use."
Similarly, Clause 4(1) (b)(ii) of the regulation states that no person will use the agriculture land in precincts of Islamabad for any other purpose, except as directed by the deputy commissioner.
The terms of reference (TORs) of the commission includes, review of the existing masterplan and proposals for the next 20 years -- until 2040, assessment the efficacy of the existing master plan, possible regularisation of illegal buildings/construction made in violation of the CDA Ordinance 1960, Masterplan, ICT Zoning Regulation 1992 (as amended), Building Regulation 2005 and other relevant regulations made under CDA ordinance 1960.
The commission is to keep in view the increased private sector participation in health and education sectors and make appropriate recommendations.
The commission is instructed to consider the outstanding issues of original owners/affected of katchi abadis squatter settlements in Islamabad, and make recommendations to address their grievances. It is also supposed to propose future developments in short-, medium- and long-terms plans.
The commission has already held a public hearing. A public survey form is also available on the CDA website to invite suggestions from the public.
CDA Master Planning Director Zafar Iqbal says the primary task of the commission is to provide the proposal to the federal government to revise the masterplan of Islamabad. "The commission will make its recommendations after consultation with all stakeholders. This is not an easy job. It’ll take time."
He adds, "It is not necessary to regularise all the illegal housing societies. It depends on the recommendations of the federal commission. However, the standing committees of National Assembly and Senate have from time to time recommended regularisation of the illegal housing societies".
Commenting on the status of Bani Gala, he says, "If the master plan is revised, the status of all surrounding areas including Bani Gala will change. The 2 km stretch around Rawal Dam falls in Zone 3 whereas the rest of Bani Gala is in Zone 4".
The current masterplan of the capital city was developed by a Greek firm, Doxiadis Associates, and was to be revised after every 20 years. In 1963, the Capital (Determination of Area) Ordinance was promulgated and the specified area in the schedule, measuring 350 square miles or the area within the district of Rawalpindi in the province of Punjab, was declared the area of the capital. The area of Rawalpindi and Rawalpindi Cantonment was separated from the Masterplan of Islamabad.
The CDA reviewed the masterplan in 1986 and 2005 but on both occasions it could not obtain approval from the government. "Both times the governments changed and the review could not be approved," says Zafar.
Boota Masih, a resident of Akram Gill Colony, says most of the katchi abadi is located along nullahs. "These settlements lack clean drinking water, electricity and gas."
Talking on behalf of residents of the colony, he says, "Our only demand is that the government should regularise the katchi abadis".
According to the report of the Islamabad Environmental Commission 2015, major violations of the masterplan include the shifting of Parade Ground from Parade Avenue to Zone 3 and the widening of road and constructions of China Friendship Centre in Shakarparian.
The report states: the transfer of area for Quaid-e-Azam University from Zone 3 to Zone 1, development of hotels along Murree Road, expansion of rural settlements in Margalla Hills National Parks (MHNP) and the construction near D-12, within the boundaries of MHNP, are considered violations of the masterplan.
It further states that the amount of solid waste generated within the municipal limits of Islamabad ranges between 500 to 550 metric tonnes per day and for the ICT is approximately 750 tonnes per day. Due to lack of proper landfill sites, solid waste is dumped in E-12 and I-12 or along Korang River, Swan Rivers, Bhara Kahu, Tarlai. Waste is also dumped in non-municipal residential areas.
The report points out that Rawal Lake, a source of drinking water for Rawalpindi, is being polluted by untreated sewage flowing out of Bara Kahu, Bari Imam, Shadara, Bani Gala and other adjoining localities. Simli Lake, a source of drinking water for Islamabad, is receiving untreated sewage from Murree and the newly developed colonies along Murree Expressway.
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) programme manager, Dr Imran Khalid, says that public transportation system and car parking are a problem for the residents of both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. "The important thing is that this masterplan must be revised in consultation with the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Rawalpindi cannot be separated from Islamabad because lots of people daily travel from Rawalpindi to Islamabad for work and education."
Dr Khalid adds, "Often, people called to public hearings and commission meetings are residents of upscale areas who are unaware of the problems of common people."
A member of the Federal Commission requesting anonymity says that the commission was formed in 2005 to revise the masterplan when "it was recommended to extend the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to the Motorway Toll Plaza and to introduce the public terminals to resolve transportation issues. It also addressed the issues of safe drinking water and regularisation of katchi abadis."