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No hope for opening stalled sectors

Hopes of opening stalled residential sectors in Islamabad have been dashed as nothing has been ensured for their development in the Rs23.99 billion budget of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for 2011-12. The city managers say they cannot turn raw land of the stalled sectors into developed one due to lack of land acquisition from the original landholders, who want compensation in cash and kind.

According to CDA’s reports, there are more than a dozen stalled sectors in the capital but the budget’s document is silent about them. These sectors are: G-12, F-12, F-13, F-14, F-15, E-12, E-13, E-14, C-14, C-15, C-16, I-16 and I-17.

The authority’ bosses say they don’t have the money to pay landholders compensation. “We need at least Rs30 billion to pay compensation to landholders. Under the prevailing financial situation, we don’t have the money,” CDA Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi said.

But real estate experts say the authority can earn more than Rs180 billion by selling only the commercial areas of the stalled sectors, adding that the income generated from selling residential plots can be enough to pay compensation and laying of infrastructure.

Sarwar Sandu, CDA’s director general Planning, estimated that the commercial area of a sector, available in all sectors in the form of Markez and Class-III shopping centres or small markets, is auctioned for at least Rs15 billion. And the auctioning of 12 sectors’ commercial area can help generate over Rs180 billion.

But on the other hand the issues surrounding land acquisition become so complex that the CDA bosses become reluctant to get involved into them. They concentrate on issues requiring less effort but producing quick results, and of course appreciation.

Moreover the issue of land acquisition is becoming a knotty problem as the number of claimants and landholders is swelling.

Sometimes officials within the CDA intentionally do not want to resolve land acquisition problem to gain as much as possible from it. That is why more than 50 years after the establishment of Islamabad they have failed to maintain computerised record of landholders, commonly called land “affectees”.

As there is no computerised list, landholders, usually after getting compensation in one sector, sit in other sectors to get same benefit again and again in connivance with the CDA officials.

The government’s decision to stop extending power distribution network has also dashed hopes of opening stalled residential sectors. In the capital, housing backlog has already gone up to 350,000 units due to non existence of new sectors for over two decades.

Iesco was already reluctant to provide power to new schemes, blaming the CDA for not bearing the cost and providing land for installing more grid stations. According to Iesco officials, few more grid stations are required to meet local demand. Not only in far flung, undeveloped and remote areas, the enhancement of power distribution network is also required even in some central parts of the city like Blue Area and the sites sold for five-star hotels.

The last residential sector developed in Islamabad – F-11— was opened 23 years ago in 1987. Some of the sectors were opened by the CDA and the Ministry of Housing but they are yet to be developed and housing has not been started.

Amid this stalemate, encroachments are on the rise. Many sectors could not be developed due to non-acquisition of land and removal of illegal occupants from sectors like G-12 and F-12. It indicates the helplessness of CDA to acquire these sectors for housing. Now these sectors have become a stigma on the performance of the CDA and a challenge to its writ.

Many town planners believe that without going into joint venture with the private sector, the CDA cannot acquire the stalled sectors.

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