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Illegal settlements on the rise in forest areas of Islamabad
03-18-2014, 01:44 PM
Post: #1
Illegal settlements on the rise in forest areas of Islamabad
Illegal settlements on the rise in forest areas of Islamabad

Illegal settlements on the rise in forest areas of Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: To have a house in this pristine setting would be the envy of many. But the setting was far more beautiful when there were trees around.

From a lush hilltop in the Saidpur village behind the F-6 sector, visitors could look south over the treetops with the few buildings springing out, and admire Islamabad as far as they could. But today, their view is distracted by dozens of haphazardly built concrete houses in the foot of the Margalla Hills.

Eyes are immediately drawn to irregularly and illegally-built small houses and extensions in the foothills that is part of the Margalla Hills National Park. They particularly come into notice because of the degradation they have caused in the middle of the beautiful green hills.

“It’s become a nuisance,” said Mohammad Iqbal, the director enforcement, Capital Development Authority (CDA), who demolished 40 illegally-extended rooms and houses in the Saidpur village in the recent past.

“Not a single brick can be laid in the designated forest areas in the Margalla Hills,” he added. But most of the rapid illegal construction has taken place in the last two years.

The houses have been built not on small portions like five to six marlas but on three to four kanals of cleared green areas.

More green cover has been destroyed to carve out dirt roads by the occupants for access to their newly-built homes.

Moreover, the forest area has lost significant numbers of old trees, mostly chinar, and more are being cut.Some of the old settlers in the village have seen people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Murree and the Galiats settling in their small model village.

According to the locals, a kanal of land is being sold for Rs300,000. They believed that such transaction was taking place with the involvement of the CDA staff.

Nonetheless, how the land is being demarcated and sold inside the forest area and then transferred and registered are the questions officials in the CDA are trying to figure out.

However, Mr Iqbal explained how he and his team visited the Saidpur village on Friday to assess the situation and decided to ensure that not a single brick was laid in the forest area.

“The problem is that the courts immediately grant stay orders and we cannot demolish the illegally built houses that have come up in Saidpur. Elected representatives make things harder by interfering in the CDA affairs,” said Mr Iqbal.

Another official in the CDA, requesting anonymity, elaborated how the elected representatives in a way condoned illegal settlements in katchi abadis and small villages around the capital.

“Outsiders have migrated to Islamabad because of the lack of facilities and opportunities in their hometowns, creating pressure on the capital’s water and energy resources. These people must return to their native towns,” the official explained.

Member Estate CDA Shaista Sohail said the civic agency had been directed by the Ministry of Interior to clear the illegally occupied lands from the slum dwellers, particularly to lessen security risks.

She explained how lists of background information of dwellers in the katchi abadis and villages had been prepared.

“The outsiders will have to return to their hometowns. We have seen their national identity cards that showed their permanent addresses. Those who have been living in Islamabad for many years and are residents, their villages and katchi abadis will be upgraded or shifted to other sectors,” she said.

PMNL MNA Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry has also held several meetings with the CDA officials to assist the authority.

Dr Fazal said he had formed committees which also included people from the slum areas to assist the CDA in retrieving the lands from the illegal occupants in and around Islamabad.

“Instead of putting pressure on Islamabad, outsiders must return to their homes and their elected members must transform their towns and cities into model settlements,” said Dr Fazal.

The director enforcement did not disclose his plan of action after his visit to the Saidpur village but said his department was dealing with the issue.

But Member Environment Sanaullah Aman said environment degradation in the foothills had also come into his notice.

“I have given directions to my team to take measures to prevent the timber mafia from cutting trees and make sure that the area is protected,” said Mr Aman.
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