Growth in Low-cost Housing Loans to Looming Water Crises; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

17 April 2022

Growth in Low-cost Housing Loans

The State Bank of Pakistan reveals in this week that `banks have shown strong progress in approving and disbursing the financing under Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar Scheme against the manifold increase in applications by borrowers to avail housing finance.` The State Bank also confirms banks approved Rs 180 billion in low-cost housing loans in the calendar 2022 so far, which is 11 times higher when compared with the same period last year. Till April 11, banks received applications for Rs 409 billion compared to just Rs 57 billion in the same period a year ago, recording an increase of over seven times, reveals State Bank in a statement.

The overall bank financing to the housing and construction sector almost doubled to Rs 404 bn in the first quarter of 2022 from Rs 204 bn in the same period last year. Of the approved applications, a sum of Rs 66 bn has been disbursed compared to Rs 16 bn in the same period of 2021. It must be noted that for 2022, banks have been advised by State Bank to increase their housing and construction portfolio to 7% of their domestic private sector advances i.e. up to Rs 560 bn billion.

Water Crisis looms due to Slow Pace of Glaciers Melting

A profound pressure regarding the national water supplies is increasing on water authorities and planners because the snow melting process in mountainous and hilly areas has not picked up pace despite early onset of summer and more than usual hotter weather in April. For the last 10 days, national water supplies have dipped substantially below not only last year`s levels, but average supplies of the last five or 10 years for the day, forcing Pakistan to start its Kharif season with close to a 40% shortage in both of its water-producing systems 30% in Indus.

Climate Change and Rising Food Insecurity in Pakistan

The Met Office predicted five spells of rain, but only one took place. However, to make matters worse, 37 inches of snow fell this winter against the yearly average of 50 inches — a drop of 26%. Even those 37 inches seem to have fallen on higher altitudes, where the temperature needs to be more than the current 23 degrees Celsius to melt it. These trends less and high altitude snow and virtually no rain have created a crisis in the Jhelum and Chenab arm. The entire snow from northern region eventually reach the rivers, but the current delay remains a cause of concern.

Regularization of more Katachi Abadis in Sindh

The Sindh cabinet has decided to amend the Sindh Katchi Abadis Act to extend the cut-off date for regularisation of katchi abadis in the province from June 30, 1997 to Dec 31, 2011. After the approval of the amendment, which is widely seen as a controversial move to give legitimacy to illegal katchi abadis being formed in the province, the settlements found existing up until Dec 31, 2011 will be regularised.

The cabinet was told that the Sindh Katachi Abadi Authority  had inventoried 1,448 unauthorised settlements existing partially or entirely on government land on or before June 30, 1987 for declarationas katchi abadis under the Act, whereas a large number of unauthorised settlements had been established after the present cut-off date that is June 30, 1997, which could not be regularised under the present law.

The Authrity also floated a proposal of low coast housing in Sindh for people affected by anti-encroachment drives. The cabinet was told that the the Authority has already launched Sasti Basti schemes at different locations in Sindh, so the cabinet approved the proposal and directed the Board of Revenue to identify land in Sindh for the schemes.

NOCs cancelled of Housing Schemes in Hyderabad Flood Zone

The town planning department of Hyderabad Development Authority has cancelled the NOCs issued to seven housing schemes that have been launched in the `flood zone` of Latif abad taluka after the DC Hyderabad asked a blanket ban to be imposed on approval of the housing schemes sought to be executed in flood zone. According to Director General HDA a notification had now been issued for the withdrawal of the NOCs. These seven schemes were launched with the approval of HDA over the last two decades.

It is pertinent to mention here that the divisional administration and Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority have remained selective in dealing with the whole issue, sparing a major 18-acre scheme along the main left bank dyke of Indus River while cancelling seven other old schemes downstream Kotri barrage. Both irrigation authority and the divisional administration have been maintaining a discreet silence over the huge scheme along the main dyke for inexplicable reasons. Flooding has been an important issue in Deh Giddu Mal and Deh Malh for irrigation and district administration Hyderabad as there is no protective or loop bund for area.

KPK claims to increase forest cover

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forestry, environment and wildlife department pledged that the province recorded a 846.5 square kilometres increase in the forest covered area of the province from 2007 to 2018 due to the government`s initiatives. The department in collaboration with the SUPARCO conducted a study regarding `quantification and documentation of temporal changes of forest cover` in KPK overthe period from 2007 to 2012 to 2015 to 2017-18 through remote sensing solution and it showed an increase of 846.5 square kilometres in the forest covered area of the province.

Their official documents reveals the `growth translated into 1.14% increase in forest cover from 2007 to 2017-18 due to the government`s initiatives`. They also recommend the government now needs to enhance its efforts to improve health of forest ecosystems by reducing deforestation and forest degradation and enhancement of forest biomass while ensuring conservation, restoration and replantation of forests.

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