Islamabad Building Bylaws Violations to Lahore Rooftop Gardens; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim

26 March 2023

Building Bylaws Violations in Islamabad exposed after Earthquake

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has failed in implementing building codes in various parts of the city, as hundreds of high-rises, both commercial and apartment complexes, have been constructed without due approval from the civic agency in the city prone to earthquakes. A major 6.8 magnitude jolt this week in Pakistan, particularly Islamabad, serves a wake-up call for the city managers to ensure all buildings in the capital to be built in accordance with the building code of 2007, which was introduced two years after the devastating earthquake of 2005. As cracks appeared on at least five buildings in Rawalpindi after the quake which prompted notices from civic authorities, declaring at least 80 structures dangerous and also formed teams for inspections of high-rises across the garrison city in light of the scary quake.

Vulnerability of Karachi High-rise Developments against Earthquake Jolts

It is relevant to note here that Doxiadis Associates, the Greek firm that developed the master plan for the federal capital, was aware of the region`s susceptibility to frequent earthquakes. The master plan stated that if built properly, the buildings in Islamabad should be able to withstand strong quakes that originate in the Hindu Kush mountain range. But, it seems, heed was not paid to this advice and poorly constructed buildings dot the landscape. During the last major quake in 2005, Margalla Towers in F-10 collapsed, killing over 50 people, for the same reasons. Besides, along with a large number of unapproved buildings, there are a number of high rises operating without occupancy certificates in Islamabad.

LDA promotes Rooftop Gardens in Bylaws

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has amended the building bylaws to promote rooftop gardening in the city. During a meet in the Judicial Commission to discuss water and environment mattes, the LDA director general mentioned that concrete steps are being taken to promote rooftop gardening under corporate social responsibility and share details on the measures being taken for environmental protection in the city.

The DG further said that the authority will ensure that measures are taken for reducing environmental pollution and a timeline would be shared with all the departments to implement the court orders are fully implemented. During the meeting, it was also mentioned that operations will be conducted to eliminate encroachment from green belts. For this, LDA, Parks and Horticulture Authority, Metropolitan Corporation Lahore, and Traffic Police will work together.

Rooftop Gardens; Green Keys for Pakistan Urban Environs

Meanwhile, the LDA has also formed a working group to examine the implementation of building bylaws in private housing schemes falling under the jurisdiction of the Lahore Development Authority. The Working Group would propose improvements in implementation mechanisms, especially for the justification of Director Estate Management, review overall monitoring and implementation related to illegal housing schemes and will review the existing enforcement of laws and regulations, as well as suggest new amendments. The working group, which comprises the Additional Director General (Housing), Director DG Headquarters, Director Master Planning, Chief Town Planner, Director Law (High Court), Chief Metropolitan Officer, and Senior Legal Advisor, would also will recommend a mechanism to monitor and manage developed housing societies and act as a regulator in the post-development phase, besides analyzing the management structure of high-rise buildings and recommend resident-friendly management rules. The group will also take inputs from representatives of Private Housing Societies, and the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) and submit its report within a week.

CDA Board now to issue Approvals for Housing Schemes

After the Chairman of Capital Development Authority (CDA) took notice of the approval of revised layout plans without the input of the CDA board, the capital`s managers have decided that the planning wing will not decide cases regarding the revised layout plan (LOP) for the housing schemes without the approval of the board. The decision was made to bring improvement in the working of the planning wing. Through a letter it is said; “It has been observed by the authority that revised layout plans of housing schemes/projects in Islamabad Capital Territory after issuances of No Objection Certificates are being approved without concurrence/approval of CDA board” Besides “In future, all approvals related to the revision of LOPs will be placed before the CDA board for approval. Necessary amendments in regulations, if required, may be incorporated”, the letter further says.


It is relevant to note here, there are over 100 housing schemes in Islamabad and a large number of them are unauthorised and illegal. In many cases, their operators got the approval of LOPs from the CDA and sold out plots without getting NOC for the said purpose. This practice has affected the buyers of these plots since these societies subsequently could not get NOCs. In many similar cases, the operators of housing schemes got the approval for LOPs to give legal cover to their schemes and later they violated the LOPs and sold out land meant for green areas and for other amenities. In past, during meetings of the standing committee, it was pointed out that many societies sold the land which was reserved for mosques, schools, graveyards, and parks.

In another meeting, The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has set up four bodies to resolve the issues faced by investors, builders, and citizens in its sectors. As per the details, the four committees include Sector Development Monitoring Committee, Housing Schemes Monitoring Committee, Monitoring Committee for High-rise projects, and Rehabilitation Committee. These bodies will monitor, examine, and decide issues and matters related to the development of sectors in Zone I and II. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has set up four bodies to resolve the issues faced by investors, builders, and citizens in these sectors.

Privatization of Pakistan Steel Mill to SSGCL opposed

The Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) has opposed a bid by the Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd (SSGCL) to take over its 1,400 acres for Rs43 billion, a valuation the mill`s management has described as “one-sided”. The takeover bid has been made against the mill`s outstanding liabilities that the gas company`s management has worked out at Rs48bn as of Dec 31, 2022. The SSGCL had asked the management of the PSM the country`s largest distressed and industrial enterprise that has remained closed for some eight years for a final meeting to settle the matter. The PSM`s caretaker management, however, believes that not only the land evaluation price offered by the gas company is one-sided and precariously low, but also the working for liabilities is unfair and strings attached to the offer are unacceptable.

Steel Mill Privatization

Interestingly, the Supreme Court had a standing order that selling PSM`s assets and properties cannot be allowed to settle liabilities because the steel mill belonged to the public. More strangely, the Council of Common Interests has not yet approved any fresh proposal for privatizing the mill or selling its properties. The Sindh government has also not yet consented to dispose of the PSM land and has repeatedly put on record that spare land not in the use of the mill had to return to the provincial government anytime its other utilisation comes up. More interestingly, the entire valuation of the steel mill under its privatisation had been worked out at about Rs60m per acre. At this rate, only the real estate value of PSM`s 18,600 acres worked out at Rs1.116 trillion.

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