RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) on Sunday claimed that the mushroom growth of housing societies in the garrison city started during the tenure of the past governments.
Speaking at the 44th governing body meeting, RDA Chairman Tariq Mehmood Murtaza said the the civic authority was a legal entity which looked after development and planning of the city.
He said there was a need to strengthen the existing legislation. He said the RDA had approved the terms of reference (TORs) for revising the master plan of Rawalpindi, and had invited an expression of interest from reputed consultancy firms.
These are short and long-term plans that would comprehensively cover all the sectors besides phasing of prioritised activities in the district for a period of 25 years, he said.
RDA chief says authority took measures to curb illegal schemes after being empowered to approve new projects in 2013
Rawalpindi’s first master plan was outlined in 1968 when it was the interim capital, because the city had expanded haphazardly. But it was never implemented, and nearly 30 years later another master plan was attempted for the 1996 to 2016 period, which was prepared under a board of officials.
The RDA chief said that in 2013 the then Punjab government had authorised the RDA to approve new housing schemes in the whole district as illegal housing schemes were emerging without any approval from the defunct district council due to lack of professional expertise and capacity.
After taking over the charge, RDA took immediate measures to curb new illegal housing schemes. Late, in 2019, the Punjab government decided that approved and under-process housing schemes would be referred to the RDA. The mushroom growths of housing societies started during the TMA’s approval time, he said.
He said 250 schemes emerged from 2013 to 2019 and out of these six were approved and legal action was taken against the rest by the RDA under the provisions of Punjab Private Housing and Land Subdivision Rules 2010.
He said during 2013-19, the RDA issued 292 legal notices, 78 challans, registered 99 FIRs, sealed 106 offices and dismantled gates and advertisement boards of illegal housing schemes. In addition, a number of parallel actions were also initiated like district collector was requested to stop land transaction in these schemes; utility departments like Iesco, SNGPL and the PTCL were requested not to extend their services. Marketing/booking offices established in the city were sealed. The status of the schemes has been uploaded on RDA website.He said the RDA had requested Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to refrain private TV channels from airing advertisements of illegal housing societies. Thegovernor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the director general of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) have also bee approached to block bank/social media accounts of the owners/followers of the illegal housing societies.
He said there was a difference between agricultural land and vacant/barren areas. Obviously, the housing schemes are being developed on vacant/barren areas with exception to small pockets of land.
“The recent notifications of the government of Punjab about agricultural land are being fully implemented by the RDA in processing private housing schemes,” he said.
There are changes between the Punjab Local Government Land Use Rules 2020 and Punjab Development Authorities Rules 2021 in terms of planning mechanisms and approaches.
The Local Government Rules 2020 do not have provisions for peri-urban areas rather these provide limited option of site development zones. The major cities where development authorities have been established demand the authorities to notify the peri-urban areas for the broad-based planning with demarcation of parcels of land for specific uses including the agriculture, he added.
The major areas in Rawalpindi where new and under-process housing schemes exist earlier fell under the jurisdiction of the defunct district council and now under the Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi (MCR).
He added that the building control in areas where there was a mushroom growth of illegal societies fell under the purview of the MCR an the TMA but they had failed in their tasks.He said the revision of the master plan of Rawalpindi had been pending since 2016 due to the jurisdiction issues between different departments.