Allowing temporary commercialization in residential areas has somewhat affected the routine business of the people, prompting them to oppose the policy by staging protest demonstrations.
Moreover, the recent amendment to rules and regulations and notification for permitting pillar construction in residential structures may add to the inconvenience the people have already been facing in the form of `unbridled` commercialization.
Independent urban experts and official sources are of the view that it was the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) that promoted commercialization in non-designated areas after it failed to stop illegal commercialization, creating so many problems in the country’s second largest city.
“Under a notification in 2014, the LDA itself started regulating as many as 15,000 illegally constructed commercial structures. And it was the policy of temporary commercialization allowed by the LDA governing body on two grounds to legalize illegal commercial structures on an annual basis and generate revenue,” says an LDA official, who preferred anonymity.
Talking to The Truth Pursuit, he said before 2014 the LDA had introduced the similar policy in view of the land use rules in 2006. But the people challenged it in the Lahore High Court which reportedly scrapped the LDA policy advising it to study the subject and resolve the issue in a way that couldn’t affect the routine business of citizens.
He said in 2014, the LDA again revived the policy and not only started legalizing the already built illegal commercial structures but also allowing temporary commercialization if someone wants to do so in residential areas.
The 2014-15 commercialization revenue target of the LDA was Rs 500 million. And it increased to Rs 750 million in 2015-16. And what it will be in 2016-17, it is yet to be known. It may be over Rs 1 billion.
“Therefore, the government and the LDA will have to think whether they have to earn revenue at the cost of peaceful environment for the people or ensure “healthy lifestyle” to them,” the official said.
He said since the permission of temporary commercialization, the LDA had regularized as many as 9,000 properties. The number of properties that were allowed to be commercialized before construction also exists in hundreds.
He said due to “wrong” decisions, the commercial areas built already in various housing schemes, including Wapda and Valencia towns, were wearing a deserted look.
He said the LDA introduced another policy by allowing pillar construction in residential structures with more than two stories for plot measuring 10 marla and above. Under this the LDA amended clause 2.6.1 of its building and zoning regulations. Though the core objective of the amendment was to protect structures from the impact of earthquakes, people might treat the facility for commercial purposes.
“Therefore, the LDA will have to be alert in monitoring such structures, if it wants to avoid more commercialization,” he said, suggesting the LDA to stop temporary commercialization in the best interest of the public.
He said under temporary commercialization policy, the LDA was only allowed to give permission to 20 per cent structures. But it didn`t follow it as well.
Talking to The Truth Pursuit, Prof Dr Ghulam Abbas Anjum, dean of the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) department of city and regional planning, termed the temporary commercialization policy a great loss to Lahore.
“The city has been facing two major problems since long. First is traffic and second is parking.”
“These both problems are due to illegal, temporary and permanent commercialization,” he said.
Mr Anjum called for a dedicated enforcement system to monitor pillar construction in residential structures.
Talking to The Truth Pursuit, LDA Director General Nabeel Javaid, who assumed the charge a few weeks back, said as far as he knew about the permission of pillar construction, it was for the stability of residential structures during natural disasters. “However, I will surely make an effective enforcement mechanism to stop any possible use of such construction for commercial purposes,” he added.
Javaid said since he didn’t know about the extent of negative impact of temporary commercialization, he would discuss the issue with urban experts. “I also want to bring about some changes to LDA’s building regulations and will revisit temporary commercialization policy.