The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) would restart collecting Refurbishment charges from its residents from next month when a three month period will expire during which collection of the charges had to be suspended on instructions of a parliamentary committee.
This was stated by Administrator DHA, Brigadier Aamir Raza Qureshi, while he was talking to the journalists at an informal briefing on Thursday. He said that the DHA was authorised to collect Refurbishment charges from its residents and it could levy the same now but for the sake of decision of the concerned sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee, the DHA would not collect the charges during these three months.
“But next month when this three-month period is expired, we will once again start collecting the charges”, said the DHA administrator.
It should be mentioned here that the meeting of the sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence, with MNA Nawab Abdul Ghani Talpur in chair, held on January 10, 2011, recommended to the DHA to suspend collection of its hefty Refurbishment charges for three months.
Subsequently the DHA accepted recommendation of the sub-committee with immediate effect with the condition that during these three months of suspension, a committee would be formed comprising representatives of DHA and the area residents to hold negotiations and resolve the controversial charges issue.
The Refurbishment charges, levied initially in mid-2009 at the rate of Rs150 per square yard on all residential plots from Phase-I to Phase-VII, had attracted strong opposition and criticism of the DHA residents’ bodies whose leadership refused to pay the charges and moved the Sindh High Court (SHC) against the new DHA tax.
Administrator DHA, speaking at the briefing, lamented that later on representatives of the Defence residents backed out from their commitment that they had to participate in the committee to be constituted for holding talks on Refurbishment charges. “Now the residents are no more willing to hold talks with us so DHA feels that further postponing collection of these charges will serve no purpose so it will once again start collecting the Refurbishment tax after lapse of this three month period”, he said.
Brig Qureshi said that no court order had barred the DHA from collecting these charges and the DHA had already sought the requisite legal advice to avoid any controversy.
He said that the Refurbishment charges were not levied just to recover expenses incurred by the DHA on laying the new storm water drainage system in the locality, but also for building the Gizri Flyover, constructing some new roads, and provision of certain civic services for the benefit of the DHA residents.
He said that the DHA was not like any other public department, which is provided grant or budget from the government for carrying out development works but on the contrary here all such developmental projects are built and completed through charges given by the residents for the purpose.
About water shortage faced by the Defence residents, the DHA Administrator said that the situation would be a lot more improved in the Defence locality if Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) fulfilled its commitment, the water board had made several years ago, to provide due quota of nine million gallons per day water supply for DHA and Clifton Cantonment.
He said that the third party evaluation would be carried out for Defence Cogen Power & Desalination Plant, which had been in disrepair and not functioning since May 2010, so that the exact nature and root cause of faults and damage in the plant could be evaluated on most accurate and scientific lines.
He said that five to six international firms working in the technical field concerned had been approached for conducting the desalination plant’s required evaluation. He said that after completion of this exercise and ensuring more investment for the project, the Defence Cogen plant would be repaired and hopefully it would restart its functioning by end of the current year.
He said that Phase-II of the Defence Cogen plant, envisaging production of additional 150 Megawatt (MW) electricity and 5 MGD water supply, would only be kicked off once all damages and faults of the main first phase of the Defence desalination plant were fully cleared.
Administrator DHA said that there were complex management, technical and financial issues involved in making the desalination plant operational very soon.
The Administrator DHA nullified the impression that residents of the DHA were subjected to double taxation and double set of municipal by-laws by both the DHA and Clifton Cantonment. He said that the DHA building by-laws and other civic rules and regulations had been made in conformity with those of the Clifton Cantonment in order to spare the Defence residents from any inconvenience or undue hassle.