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Residents have cried foul over the permission by the Defence Housing Authority to allow the construction of a private hospital on a vast amenity plot in DHA Phase 6. The plot was originally demarcated as a green belt, residents told The News.

A recent visit to the plot in question near Darakshan Villas and City School Darakshan campus between 34th and 38th street revealed that construction of two multi-storeyed buildings supposedly built for the hospital are in an advanced stage. The plot measuring around 2,500 square yards, besides these under- construction buildings, also has a signboard publicizing another project of a hospital and clinics to be developed at the site. The rear portion of the plot, however, is empty.

Residents of the area have requested the DHA Administrator to use his ‘special’ powers to make the rest of the amenity plot, which remains unused, as a park for the area. An application in this regard has been submitted to the DHA, they said.

Residents said that while half of this plot has been allocated for hospital projects, the DHA is reluctant to reveal what the rest of the land is being utilized for. “We want it to be made into a park. The DHA Administrator will be remembered if he does that,” said one area resident.

Colonel (Retd) Zahid Akbar, DHA Director for Town Planning and Building Control, confirmed to The News that a private hospital was being constructed on the said amenity plot and the project was okayed by the DHA.

Col Akbar’s department is responsible for checking and halting any encroachment or unauthorised construction on DHA land. However, he also pointed out that the DHA had changed its policy for amenity plots, according to which the ownership of these plots would never be transferred and it would remain with the DHA.

Meanwhile, the investor from the private sector would have to come forward with the plan and construct and run any project of public utility on the amenity plot in collaboration with the DHA. In future the collaboration of the DHA would be a must for constructing projects on amenity plots, he said. “As far as this plot is concerned it was handed over to the private sector for the construction of a hospital before the enforcement of the new DHA policy for amenity plots,” he said. Before this new policy, plots were given to the prospective developers on a 30-year lease.

Apart from the two hospital projects, a third is also being built on the same amenity plot. When contacted, Sajid Khan chief executive of Green Acres, the developer for the third hospital and clinic project, said that for the time being progress on the project had been halted on the directives of the entrepreneur concerned.

He added that construction of two other buildings was a separate project of a hospital and had nothing to do with their project. He said that while there had been no progress on the project assigned to his company other than installation of the signboard, he had assumed that the investor of the project had yet to get an approval of maps and site plans from the DHA.

Khan, the Green Acres CEO said that according to his understanding there had been no bar or objection on the construction of a hospital and clinics by the private sector on the DHA amenity plots. It would be one of the preferred utilisation of amenity plots of the area, he said. He said that building of hospitals on amenity plots would surely serve the purpose of public welfare and it would be embodiment of the idea of public-private partnership.

When contacted, DHA spokesman Lt. Colonel (Retd) Rafat Naqvi said the construction of petrol pumps, mosques, parks, schools, hospitals and clinics, by or with the support of private sector had been allowed by the DHA in view of public utility of such ventures for the area residents. In the past too, these amenity plots were non-transferable by the DHA and there has been a mechanism to check whether the plots are used strictly for the purpose. They were allotted by the authorities, he said.

He said the construction of hospitals and clinics on amenity plots had remained a major utility of the DHA amenity plots as the area lacked any facility of a major hospital. “When the DHA Executive Board and others in authority were discussing the proposed Creek City Hospital in Phase-VIII with private sector support, it was a widely shared notion that the project of such a major hospital should cater to the healthcare needs of the needy sections of the population,” he said.

Colonel Akbar said that there were around 200 amenity plots in the DHA and construction on majority of them, that are located from DHA Phase-I and VII, had been made.

He said the DHA had amended its rules for amenity plots on instructions of the government and as such there had been no irregularity in its allotment or usage. For setting up of petrol pumps on the DHA amenity plots, he said the DHA invites the oil marketing company to establish the petrol pumps while they remain property of the Defence Housing Authority.

However, the building of petrol pumps on amenity plots has been a source of controversy. The Secretary-General of the Defence Residents Association, Asad Kizilbash, said the construction of Creek Vista Apartments in the DHA Phase-VIII near DHA Golf Club was one glaring example of mismanagement of amenity space in Defence as the area in question had been reserved as a site for graveyard in the old DHA maps.

A senior Defence Residents’ Association representative said there had been instances in the past which showed us that principles of transparency and fairness were not at all observed in allotment of several plots, including those for amenity purposes, by the DHA.

Amenity plot or open space?

By our correspondent

Karachi

Najmuddin Sikander, a senior City Government official having knowledge of utilisation of government land, said that all pieces of land reserved for any public use or purpose could be called amenity plots. Such spaces or plots could be used for building roads, mosques and other places of worship, public buildings and government offices, hospitals, parks, playgrounds and educational institutions, he said.

He said the Sindh Disposal of Urban Land Ordinance-2002 had envisaged that the amenity plots reserved for educational and health purposes should be disposed through open public auctions.

“The ordinance lapsed some years back but the city government has still been largely following provisions of the ordinance for giving amenity spaces for health and educational causes,” he said. He said that according to this ordinance, there is no harm in giving an amenity plot reserved for health and educational purposes to the private sector.

He said that in the past amenity spaces meant for health and educational purposes could only be allotted by the government to trusts and after giving these plots to trusts, such pieces of land would become non-transferable and should not be used for the purpose for which they are allotted. Naila Ahmed, executive member of Shehri, an NGO working for proper use of public land, said that giving an amenity space for commercial ventures like opening of private school or hospital would go against the very cause of reserving a piece of land for the greater cause of public welfare.

Source: Daily Times

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