Hundreds of illegal housing schemes/projects developed or being established currently on green areas are likely to be legalised/approved under a recent ordinance promulgated in the province.
According to a Dawn report, the move, it is alleged, is set to benefit the powerful land mafia, which succeeded in purchasing huge chunks of land in the green areas around Lahore and other divisions. The land mafia has developed or is in the process of developing housing schemes in violation of the land use rules and the cities’ master plans. After the promulgation of the ordinance, titled “The Punjab Commission for Regularization of Irregular Housing Schemes Ordinance-2021” on April 9, another related to squeezing the LDA’s jurisdiction to the Lahore city district alone from the entire division consisting four districts.
Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on January 19 this year had directed the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to stop all kinds of construction work in illegal housing schemes established on the agriculture land and suspend the amnesty being given to them.
“Not a single wall or window should be constructed in a society developed on the agricultural land,” the CJ had warned the legal adviser to the LDA.
“It seems to be a big game allegedly on the part of the government as first an ordinance to form a commission to regularise irregular housing schemes, including all those falling in green areas, was promulgated and then another came, clipping building control of the LDA and limiting it to the Lahore city alone,” said a private developer/builder.
“Everything is being done very quickly. It seems some very powerful people want illegal housing schemes—especially on the green areas, which cannot be legalised under the existing LDA and environmental laws, land use rules/regulations and the fundamental rights narrated in the constitution of Pakistan. Where is the PM who used to speak from time to time on protecting green areas of the country,” deplored the developer who requested not to be named.
“It is very strange that if you have money equaling 2pc of the residential land value, you can legalise the scheme falling in green areas,” he said.
The Lahore division alone has over 600 illegal housing schemes and the number was 576 in January, this year. The 600 schemes include 230 developed or being established on green areas of Lahore, Kasur, Nankana Sahib and Sheikhupura districts in violation of the master plan, laws, rules and regulations.
According to the April 9 ordinance, the commission, headed by a retired judge of the high or supreme court shall have the power to hear the cases related to illegal schemes and regularise any non-conforming land use on which the irregular schemes exist.