The city district government has called for letters of interest from private construction and engineering firms for a survey of illegal commercial buildings constructed in the city in the last five years. This move is surprising because it comes after the district municipal services department, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and other town departments presented a list of 1,108 such buildings after making a survey of their own in September.
District government sources told Daily Times that the letters of interest had been invited on the instructions of District Nazim Mian Amer Mehmood. Officials said that in a meeting held three weeks ago, the nazim said that he was not satisfied with the findings of the previous survey and that the number of illegal buildings was probably more than the survey had found. Therefore, it was decided that a fresh survey by private firms be commissioned to quell the nazim”s doubts.
Sources said further that the city government was not properly equipped to deal with the problem of illegal buildings because neither the amended Punjab Local Government Ordinance (PLGO) nor the city district government”s building by-laws contained any provisions to deal with building crime that was discovered after construction was completed.
Explaining the issue, officials said that the 1,108 buildings which had been declared unlawful by the government survey were classified as such because their owners did not deposit the requisite commercialisation fee required for them to operate in otherwise residential areas. However, when the authorities decided to collect the commercialisation fee along with a penalty, it was discovered that most of these buildings did not have approved building plans because their owners had not obtained the approval of town planning authorities before construction. Some city government officials had proposed that in accordance with building by-laws, the owners of these buildings be charged commercialisation fees with a penalty. However, others contended that if this were to be done with all such buildings, those buildings whose plans had no approval to begin with would also be legitimised if they paid the fee and penalty and the problem of the illegal construction would remain unresolved. Sources said that it was at this point that officials decided not to take any direct action against the illegally constructed buildings and backed down on their aggressive policy of zero tolerance for building crime.
Regarding the legal recourse outlined in the amended PLGO, officials said that Clause 146/D dealt with violations of building bylaws while a building was under construction. They said that although building inspectors working under the umbrella of Schedule 7, 8, and 9 of the amended PLGO were empowered to fine and, in case of repeated violations, report the offenders to their local police station, they could not do anything about a building where illegal construction was detected after the building was completed.
Talking about the move to involve private firms in surveying illegal buildings, officials said that although the district government was empowered to hire the services of any person or group, they felt that an effective administrative mechanism to combat construction crime was imperative. Talking to Daily Times, Mian Amer Mehmood said that construction of illegal commercial buildings was part of a billion-rupee illegal business and since there existed deep-rooted corruption within the administration”s own ranks, relying on official reports was not a wise decision. “This is why I have decided to commission a private report to identify illegal buildings,” he said. Talking about the legal hurdles in fighting construction crime, he said that the government had planned strategy to deal with illegal buildings.
Source: Daily Times
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