Islamabad-The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has started a comprehensive survey of the recognised slums (katchi abadis) for finalising fundamental features of a proposed policy for providing low-cost housing facility to those who do not possess such a facility, it has been learnt reliably.

The move comes on the heels of a Supreme Court’s order for physical verification of the particulars of the tenants of Islamabad’s eight katchi abadis in the presence of responsible officers and elders of the area. The surveyor may also get assistance from the record of the Survey of Pakistan, and Google mapping and other sources and may sign an MOU with NADRA to permanently register these families with full ‘tree of families’ so that undue dual benefit is not taken by anyone from these beneficial schemes. Islamabad has over 40 katchi abadis at present. CDA recognized 10 katchi abadis in Islamabad on the instructions of the government. These include Tent Colony, sector G-7/1 (308 housing units and area of 11.38 acres); 66-Quarters, sector G-7/2 (475 housing units and area of 9.7 acres); 48-Quarters, sector G-7/3 (98 housing units and area of 3.59 acres); Katch Abadi, sector G-8/1 (575 housing units and area of 14.62 acres); 100-Quarters, sector F-6/2 (area of 8.84 acres); France Colony, sector F-7/4 (418 housing units and area of 8 acres); Essa Nagri, sector I-9/1 (213 housing units and area of 6.23 acres); and Muslim Colony (East of the PM House) 993 housing units and area of 63 acres. Two katchi abadis - Dhok Najju in I-10/4 and Haq Bahu in I-11/4 - were located in Farash Town under MUSP. As far as katchi abadi of sector I-11 is concerned, this sector was occupied by Afghan refugees and remained under their occupation. After repatriation of the Afghan refugees, the land under this katchi abadi was reoccupied mostly by Pakistani nationals. The land was got retrieved by the CDA for development and further handing over of possession to the original allottees.

The Supreme Court in its order dated August 31, 2016 had redirected the federation, provincial governments and CDA to do the needful for settling the issue of katchi abadis’ residents once for all in a proper legal manner and under policy and law on the basis of opinion of the experts working group as was suggested by the court in its previous order. The apex court had also directed secretary law and justice commission to convene a meeting of all the concerned secretaries of the provinces, the federal government and senior most officer of the CDA, survey and housing/climate change on the subject with a warning that non-compliance with the order will cause attachment of their salaries and they will be proceeded for contempt of court due to lethargic attitude as this matter has been pending for the last one year. The court also asked the governments to show the cause as to why budgetary allocation has not been made by way of tentative assessment as was directed by the court for the said schemes and why law was not enacted so far specifically dealing with such schemes in view of the changed circumstances as the old law with respect to katchi abadis does not cover many things and contains loopholes.

In the next meeting, the expert working group shall finalize the fundamental features of the policy for providing low-cost housing facility schemes to those who do not own or possess such facilities, also securing the state interest and discouraging the land grabbers. In the meantime, the CDA will not demolish any house, etc, of the already existing katchi abadis but will keep a check on fresh encroachments.

Under the plan, the authorities would enlist and register them as destitute entitling them to shelter home facilities. Their antecedents and purchasing capacity shall be properly verified by the government concerned or CDA and proper record would be obtained and maintained with NADRA under an MOU to avoid future ambiguity.

Background interaction with the high-ups at the CDA reveal that the survey will help the authorities reach an amicable solution to the issue, as has been directed by the apex court. They said around 120 acres of precious CDA land are under possession of the tenants of only 8 katchi abadis which had been recognized by the CDA. Evaluating at a price of Rs 700,000 per square yard, the high-ups at the planning wing estimate the worth of 120 acres up to over Rs 5 billion. They believe that social housing is the only solution to the problem. Social housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of providing affordable housing.

Augmenting their argument, the officials said a flat measuring 20×30 would cost the state around Rs 700,000 and construction of housing units in multiple storeys for the total tenants of the recognized katchi abadis would cost the government just one fourth of the price of the precious land presently under occupation of the katchi abadi tenants. By going for multi-storey flats, we can save more than half of the land which can be auctioned on open rates, they said. This seems to be the only viable option for resolving the issue on permanent basis, they believed.

They said the previous governments of the provinces, federal government and all housing authorities failed to provide social shelter to the destitute who cannot afford even to purchase any living room.