ISLAMABAD - As the world leaders are trying to forge a deal on Climate Change in Paris, the Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday asked the authorities to check unbridled growth of housing societies because, beside other problems, these are harming the environment.
It warned the central and provincial governments of passing a binding order if it failed to put in place a proper system to regulate the housing sector as well as provide proper housing to the poor, who are forced to settle on areas unfit for inhabitation.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Dost Muhammad and Justice Qazi Faez Isa while hearing petition of I-11 Sector katchi abadi (slums) residents observed that mushroom growth of housing societies is affecting the ecosystem of the country.
Observing that the estate developers must be prohibited from launching housing schemes on the green belts and the agricultural lands, the court summoned housing and finance secretaries of the federal government and all the four provinces as well as the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
The court also noted that the slums and unplanned localities have sprang up on the river beds, fault lines and other risk prone areas, and therefore huge loss of life and property is caused every year in storms, foods and earthquakes.
The court said due to different lifestyle (of the people belonging to different cultures and income groups) and the climate the competent authorities are required to hire consultants and conduct survey before developing it for housing purposes.
This is unfortunate that the housing societies developed across the country only cater to the needs of the wealthy and no housing society has been made for the poor people, the court observed.
Just Dost said it appears there is no comprehensive plan for providing housing to low income people. Since August this year the apex court had passed various orders urging the governments to formulate comprehensive policies for the low income class but those were not heeded to.
The judge said if the official delegations in their foreign tours discussed the matter with their counterparts and show the court order then it can raise billions of dollars for the low-income housing societies.
The court in its written order said if the federal and provincial governments will be unable to formulate the policy (and implement it) then the court in accordance with the provisions of constitution will pass a binding order which would put the governments in trouble. According to the Article 9 of constitution it is the duties of the government to provide housing to people, it said.
The court said that the provincial assemblies also should pass resolutions as after 18th Amendment the housing is a provincial subject.
Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman told the court that the other day (Wednesday) federal housing secretary held a meeting with the provincial housing secretaries on the issues facing housing sector in the country.
The AAG and the advocate generals of all the four provinces submitted reports which the court rejected and said the aforesaid meeting of housing secretaries was held after four months of to their order. “This is just to hoodwink the court. We will not dispose of this case.” No plan to provide low-cost houses for the destitute was submitted before to the court,” the court remarked.
The court expressed annoyance over non appearance of the federal housing secretary. It therefore instructed to all the secretaries of housing and finance division to appear on the next date of hearing and adjourned the case until first week of next month.
The federal and provincial finance secretaries have been directed to file report telling the court how money can be allocated for housing facilities to the destitute.
The court also ordered that its interim order barring displacement of the residents of I-11 katchi abadi will remain intact. It noted that the slum dwellers were given the right to vote for local bodies’ elections but they were still deprived of another fundamental right (the right to proper residence). In recently held LB polls in Islamabad, I-11 katchi abadi residents also cast their votes and elected three councilors from the locality.