Illegal constructions put adverse impacts on people's health

By: Salman Raza      Published: 03:23 PM, 6 Nov, 2021
Illegal constructions put adverse impacts on people's health
File photo.

The unbridled construction activities to meet needs of the growing population in the cities lead to having adverse consequences on governance systems, environment, people’s health, transportation services and overall citizens' well-being.

Environmentalists sound warning that unapproved commercial or residential constructions cause big damages to the ecosystem as builders least care to safeguard the environment and natural resources. It soars humidity level combined with hot temperature that affects human health to a great deal which calls for rectification of policies, improved planning, stricter laws' implementation and technological improvement for governance.

Enforcement team of Multan

Development Authority (MDA) has succeeded to demolish various illegal constructions during series of operations launched of late against encroachment in different parts of the city including Sher Shah road, Tehsildar Mor to Mill Phattak bypass road near Head Naubahar. It has erased dozens of illegal installations in past few days. The enforcement cell escorted by heavy contingent of police faced heavy resistance during operation unleashed at Bosan Road, Chungi no 9, Rasheedabad, Chowk Kumharaanwala, MA Jinnah, fruit and vegetable market, Qasimpur Colony roads as well while clearing paths and pavements surrounded by the encroachers.

Taking action on the complaints received through Pakistan Citizen Portal, the Director General MDA Agha Muhammad Ali Abbas directed officers to launch operation at Double Phattak Chowk, New Shah Shams Colony, Kumharanwala Chowk flyover and green belts.

Expressing resolve to treat encroachers with iron hands, the DG said it's not only creating hurdle in uninterrupted traffic flow, damaging beauty of the city at large.

Despite regular operation initiated against encroachment mafia, it hasn't been yet removed completely. Sometimes it appears to have been pivoted as constant phenomenon that never going to be dismantled from society for good.

Director Town Planning (DTP) MDA stated in this regard that since 2019, there have been 204 residential colonies marked as illegal in different parts of the district. At least 23 out of 204 colonies are fixed with heavy fine, while cases of the rest of 181 left pending for the last about three years after getting sub-judice since their owners 

have moved to the court, he said. Worse of the matter is that there's no system available to restrict buyer for purchasing property into illegal residential colonies.

"It's two-way agreement reached out between owner and buyer" said Deputy Director Enforcement MDA Mohsin Raza. However, he said that they write letter to Revenue Department to impose ban on sale, purchase of plots in unapproved residential area. But unfortunately buyers don't get aware of illegality of the colony. They get it to know when paid out entire premiums to the scheme's owner to retain property's ownership. According to him, the practice can be hampered if some App would be created in future which isn't yet under consideration.

As for as illegal plazas are concerned, the DTP said he cannot point out data of illegal installation. He said they didn't keep record of shops, plazas or sort of makeshift business points which are constructed at open venue or roads' sides. He said they used to issue advertisement time by time in local print media to register complaints by the citizens against unapproved installation in order to hold crackdown. According to him, the Town Planning Committee initiates action either through complaints or conducts surveys on its own to locate illegal installations come under its jurisdiction.

PRO and Deputy Director Urban Planning-1 Muhammed Ashraf, responding query made through RTI's submission, said MDA regularly issues advertisements to trace illegal installations through local newspapers. He said action used to be taken out against them under given rules and regulations In past, cases of many illegal installations were resolved by collecting legal commercial dues which couldn't get submitted to the authority, it is said.

Sometimes, it's observed that the mafia constitutes of prominent figures puts political pressure to get approved maps of illegal installation from the authority, has emerged a big challenge for the authority concerned. Fate of such cases continue to hang in balance following weak trial or prosecution into the court.

The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Multan claimed to have initiated regular enquires into the alleged illegal construction found across the district.

Director Anti-Corruption Haider Abbas Watto stated in this regard that the ACE is also probing that officials of the Multan Development Authority (MDA) and the Multan District Council /Metropolitan Corporation may be involved in illegal construction as well as evasion of government taxes. He however, didn't disclose names or numbers of the officials facing the investigation.

Since August 21, 2019, the ACE is probing into about 214 illegal housing schemes falling in its jurisdiction.

District Multan is spread over an area of 3,721 square Kilometers comprising of following four tehsils. The district is surrounded by district Khanewal on the north and north east, district Vehari on east and district Lodhran on the south

City District Multan is spread over an area of 3,721 km² and have population of about five million. Administratively, the City District is divided into following six towns including Bosan Town, Shah Rukne Alam Town, Mosa Pak Town, Sher Shah Town, Shujaabad Town and Jalapur Pirwala Town.

Sources also claim that some officers have allegedly been involved in allowing for the buildings to be constructed without seeking formal approvals. This has cost heavy revenue loss to various departments in the city.

Municipal laws for building residential occupation or commercial entity are notified by the government time to time under the respective section of the commercialization Rules / Land use Rules of the Authority. It included as submitting building plans to the authority for obtaining approval to hold structure first, constitution of commercialisation committee to approve building plans, submitting copy of deposited commercial fee challan respectively and later final approval is given by Deputy Commissioner in its 'high-level' meeting arranged almost every month.

PRO MDA Javed Bukhari said unfortunately ratio of colonies' building are increasing in northern parts of the district which are rich in greenry, instead plane areas of the Southern region. Such kind of de-forestation causes numerous problems like spreading pollution, increasing temperature that followed to crop up increased health issue. However, he said that they can't restrict builders to initiate their schemes after following entire rules mentioned above to carry out the project. Moreover he said it affects the very drive of Clean and Green Pakistan initiated at national level.

As for as people's investment in illegal settlements is concerned, DTP maintained that there's as such no mechanism evolved to refrain an individual from buying property into the disputed settlement. It comes to responsibility of respective buyer to ensure legal status of the commercial entity before heading for investment, he said.

According to sources, the concern departments have failed to take legal action against such illegal construction activities. This negligence leads to arise number of illegally constructed buildings and structures in the city.

These buildings are constructed without payment in regards to the commercialization fees and building plans fees.

When asked about how many prominent figures being investigated for illegal construction, Haider Abbas Watto said, for the time being a high profile investigation is completed against the City Mayer, Naveed Araein. He said enquiry for giving illegal approval of Zenith Plaza at Chowk Nawan Sher was started against him from August 2020.

According to him, the investigation has been completed right now with recovery worth Rs.13 million made.

Replying another query, the top official said they had forwarded a proposal to Punjab government to constitute high- level enquiry commission to settle such cases through special power since it is very difficult for the ACE authority to investigate every matter regarding illegal installations. According to him, the proposal was further moved from provincial to federal authority and finally a three-member Enquiry Commission led by former CJ of Supreme Court Justice (Rtd) Azmat Saeed is constituted via an ordinance. He said it would start formal working in a week next.

He said the commission is empowered to sort out high-profile cases in days after collecting desired commercial charges by following building's rules and regulations.