LAHORE: The Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has failed to control and stop the illegal construction and development inside the walled city area of the provincial capital, Pakistan Today has observed.
According to the WCLA’s law, no building can be demolished, constructed or developed without taking a no objection certificate (NOC) from the WCLA. However, it has been observed that the construction work on a number of residential and multi-story commercial buildings is underway.
Last year in March, the WCLA claimed to serve notices to more than 1,200 owners of buildings involved in illegal construction. Furthermore, it was also claimed that authority had overcome illegal construction and encroachments inside the walled city.
Sources in WCLA told Pakistan Today that it is the prime duty of building control department of the authority to monitor and control illegal construction, but it failed to play its due role. They said that the monitoring teams of the authority have been highlighting the illegal constructions in the area and violators had been issued notices.
Sources further said that over 1,000 buildings have been declared dangerous and any demolishing and construction near them can lead to any untoward incident.
A few days back, a tragic incident occurred in the walled city where a few persons, including children and women, died due to the collapse of a dilapidated building. Sources claimed that the building collapsed as the owner had made changes inside his home, causing the incident.
“The cases against violators have been lodged in the local police station, but the police too fail to stop these constructions,” they added.
An official seeking anonymity told Pakistan Today that WCLA always initiated proceedings against violators whenever it received any complaint. “We can just lodge first information report (FIR) with the nearby police station as we do not have our own police force to take action against violators,” he said and added that hundreds of istighasas [private complaint] have been pending due to unavailability of a special magistrate.
He further said, “Punjab government has given approval of appointing a special magistrate, but despite repeated requests, no appointment has yet been made,” he said. He added that this delay in appointing the magistrate is hampering the efficiency of the authority and also causing hurdles in achieving its goals.
The official further informed that currently, over 22,000 properties of different nature lie inside the walled city, which needs a huge amount of money to preserve. “During the current fiscal year, no amount has been allocated for the conservation work of any building. The delay in allocation of funds also forces the residents to modify their buildings in their own way,” the officer said and added that a score of violators are backed by political big-wigs who don’t care about these notices.
When contacted, WCLA Director Conservation Najamus Saqib said that there are currently over 400 maps present with the authority which are pending approval due to the directives of Lahore High Court. “Most of the residents of the walled city are low-income who cannot afford to leave the place or conserve it in a safe way. That’s why they modify their buildings illegally, causing problems in the restoration of the building according to their theme and making it fatal as well,” he said.
However, he said that after the appointment of the special magistrate, the authority would be able to control the illegal construction.