KARACHI: The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed on Tuesday an application moved by the builders association seeking lifting of the ban imposed by the court on approval of new high-rise and multi-storey projects in Karachi.
A three-member larger bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Faisal Arab as its other members, also sought reports from the cantonment boards and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) on action initiated against the projects which were approved sans proper water supply and drainage system. The bench was hearing a petition regarding failure of the authorities in supplying clean drinking water and improving sanitation and environment in Sindh province.
The Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) had moved a miscellaneous application, pleading the apex court to review its March 16 order that banned issuance of approvals for the new high-rise and multi-storey projects in the city.
While hearing petitions regarding non-provision of drinking water and poor sanitation in the city, the apex court had imposed a ban on the issuance of building approval plans for the new high-rise or multi-storey projects, which did not have a proper water supply and drainage system, till further order.
In compliance to the Supreme Court’s order, the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) issued a notification on May 26 imposing a ‘complete’ ban on the construction of buildings beyond ground-plus-two-storeys in Karachi region forthwith. The ban from the authority came in the light of the directives issued by the provincial local government ministry on April 4.
The builders informed the bench that due to the ban, the allottees of the new projects were facing difficulties as they could not be handed over possession of their properties. They pleaded to the court to lift the ban on approval of new projects.
Justice Alam remarked that at present the allottees were complaining about the court’s ban, but tomorrow their lawyers will be criticising the judges in the media. The remarks prompted Barrister Naseem, who was representing the builders, to reply that he had never given any remarks against the judiciary.
Justice Arab observed that any city must have some limits beyond which it should not be expanded.
Senior lawyer, Munir A Malik, who also represented the builders, informed the bench that the construction companies will not put any burden on the water utility by utilising its water. The companies will take out the sub-soil water and make it drinkable through their own reverse osmosis (RO) plants, he said. Justice Alam asked the lawyer whether the whole city could rely on the sub-soil water alone.
Barrister Naseem requested the apex court to permit execution of those projects whose builders had installed their own RO plants. However, the bench members remarked that they were fully aware of how the certificates for the RO plants were issued.
The court discarded the plea seeking to recall its stay against approval of the new high-rise and multi-storey projects in the city. However, the final order will be passed after hearing detailed arguments from the parties concerned, said the bench.
In the meantime, the bench issued notices to the chief executive officers of the cantonment boards and KWSB to file their reports, clearly mentioning what measures they had taken against those projects that lacked proper water supply and drainage systems.
The bench adjourned hearing on a petition filed by the All Karachi Water Tankers Ittehad against the KWSB authorities for demolishing the legally built water hydrants in the city.
The association’s representatives informed the court that the KWSB officials were directed to demolish only illegal hydrants. However, the authority was also demolishing those hydrants which were built and being operated legally in violation of the apex court’s directives. They pleaded to the court to restrain the KWSB from taking any action against the legal hydrants.
However, the bench adjourned hearing till the next session with the observation that the court will examine the law that allows private persons to run water hydrants.
Water, sanitation development schemes
In the meantime, the advocate-general submitted to the apex court details of the projects which were launched by the Northern Sindh Urban Services Corporation (NSUSC). The bench was informed that eight different development schemes were launched at an estimated cost of Rs3 billion. However, the work on the schemes was suspended after the foreign lending agency – the Asian Development Bank – stopped releasing the loan funds.
A lawyer representing the municipal corporation of Sukkur district moved an application seeking urgent hearing on the matter of NSUSC, contending that the issue of non-release of funds was hampering the schemes. However, the court dismissed the application and fixed the matter for the next session.
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