LAHORE: Amid the Punjab government’s massive anti-encroachment campaign across the province, the Irrigation Department has failed to retrieve its illegally-occupied land near Thokar Niaz Baig where bungalows and industrial units stand erected.
According to sources, the land worth billions of rupees has been encroached by land mafia in connivance with Irrigation Department officers. They added that the new government needed land to construct 2.5 million houses for the needy but the department had been sitting silent and not been acting to remove the encroachments.
Sources said that once 62 kanals of the said land was given to a party on contract but later the Irrigation Department took it back; however, the occupants never left and instead constructed bungalows and industrial units there.
“None of the department’s officers, including the XEN, special duty officers and sub-engineers, despite having the authority to do so, are making any efforts to take back the government’s land,” said sources.
“Despite Clean-Up Lahore – an operation aimed at removing encroachments – continuing in full swing, the department has failed to get its land vacated from illegal occupants as the officers who visit the site either fear political pressure or are among those who assisted the land mafia in taking it over.”
They added that owing to the structures being illegally constructed around the emergency canal area, the waterway had shrunk and was resulting in sanitation problems. “Due to the narrowness and blockages in the emergency canal, the main canal has also been damaged which has resulted in financial losses to the department but no one is bothering to retrieve the land.”
Sources further told Pakistan Today that the emergency canal had not been cleaned for the past 10-15 years whereas the officers had sought hefty funds from the government for the purpose.
“We have written letters as well as had a meeting with the Lahore deputy commissioner to discuss the issue as an anti-encroachment operation is underway across the city,” said Irrigation Department Lahore XEN Rashid Minhas while speaking to Pakistan Today.
Other than the canal area, there are encroachments on several other properties of the department. We have informed the authorities concerned, including the police, he added.
Minhas also said that he did not know the owners of the industrial units that had illegally been constructed in the area.