CDA starts slow against non-compliant agro farms

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Nov 28, 2012.

Islamabad – Following up on a compliance notification issued in October, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Tuesday finally acted against the blatant misuse of agricultural farms in Islamabad.

The agricultural farms, bound by CDA regulations to grow fruits and vegetables on 80 per cent of their land, had morphed into money making machines for their owners.

Some of these farms were being used as marriage halls, restaurants and musical night venues, while others had been turned into bungalows and mansions. In both cases, the farm owners were in breach of CDA rules. The CDA bylaws state that farms cannot be used for purposes other than poultry and vegetable farming and the covered area on the farms cannot be more than 20 per cent of the land.

In case of breach of these bylaws, CDA can cancel the farm owners’ agreement and take possession of the building without any liability to pay compensation.

On October 25, 2012, the CDA’s building control directorate had issued a notice to the owners of the farms to comply with the terms of their allotment and Islamabad Residential Sectors and Zoning Regulations 2005 within 15 days. CDA asked the owners to demolish excess covered area and ensure the supply of vegetables and poultry to local markets are per CDA regulations

The noncompliance would lead to demolition or removal of non conforming facilities, the Express Tribune had quoted CDA spokesperson Ramzan Sajid in a report published November 5.

On Tuesday, the CDA sealed off four agricultural farms in the Orchard Scheme on Murree Road for violation of CDA bylaws and non conforming use, according to a CDA press release. Farms 42, 43, 44 and 44-A were shut down on the basis of violations.

The press release stated that some of the violators went to court to get restraining orders, but CDA pursued the cases to get the orders vacated. The operation was supervised by CDA member planning and design, Mustafain Kazmi. CDA will continue action against the non confirming use in agricultural farms and residential areas of the city to ensure compliance of the CDA bylaws, the release stated.

CDA’s earlier attempts to deal with this issue in 2011 failed due to reported resistance from influential farm owners, among whom are leading businesspersons, journalists, lawyers, military officials, and a host of current and former parliamentarians.

A senior CDA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said CDA is targeting the marriage halls constructed over the farms as a first priority. The official said CDA does not have any plans to rezone the marriage halls and use them as a revenue generation source, because that would require changes in Islamabad’s master plan.

“After marriage halls, CDA plans to go after owners who have built excess building structures on their plots,” the official said.

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