Perils of Land Reclamation by DHA for Real Estate Greed

by M. Wasim

In a landmark development, the Sindh High Court restrained the Defense Housing Authority (DHA) from reclaiming any further land from the sea. In the hearing, the apex court also restricted the DHA from granting any such land to anyone, or creating any third party interest on these lands or properties built thereon, or changing such lands’ use, till the next hearing on November 16, 2021.  Owing to the perils of climate change specifically rising sea level, flooding and cyclones, the order works to ensure safety of city’ shoreline and security of coastal communities.

In recent times the creeks and shoreline of Karachi face many callous challenges, like unregulated construction, untreated sewage disposal, diminishing public spaces and marine pollution. But none is as inhuman and threating as the land reclamation for real estate construction.

Land Reclamation by DHA

This rapid urbanization and infrastructure development has led many land developers in Karachi to frequently exercise land reclamation, specifically at the coast by the DHA. Over the last 30 years, the leading real estate developer reclaim extensive land from the Arabian Sea. One of their most prominent locales is Phase-VIII Extension, created for both residential and commercial use. The land has been utilized for mixed-use high-rise towers, a commercial section, ‘Saahil Commercial’ and other upscale recreational and commercial developments.

There were more land reclamation on the cards with many other real estate developments, mainly high-end high-rises, when DHA residents approached the judiciary under the Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Ordinance, 2019. They alleged that the DHA has occupied 117 acres in phase-VIII, which had undergone extensive land reclamation illegally as “it reclaimed over 300 acres though it did not have right of possession of the land, ownership rights and permission from the federal government in violation of Article 172(2) of the Constitution.”

Perils of Land Reclamation

Although Infocus has already cast repercussion of construction of high-rises at the seafront of Karachi in previous blog. However, according to the lawyer of the plaintiffs due to the massive land reclamation in the area;  

  • Serious danger to Karachi ports was in the offing as underground sand was tilting towards the port, reducing water depth and requiring continuous dredging.
  • The natural flow of sand transport combined with excess sand from the reclamation always cast adverse impacts on marine habitat.
  • Any development along the coast, particularly reclaimed land, always led to inundation from sea level rise due to climate change.
  • Land reclamation destroys more than 50% of coastal wetlands and brings adverse impacts on mudflats, mangroves and coral reef.
  • Most importantly, land reclamation invites liquefaction of soil that causes structural instability in buildings and constructed residencies in the area.

Unlawful Land Use

During the court hearing the lawyer of the plaintiffs also informed that about 22 private entities recently has illegally obtained the reclaimed land as well as the land meant for defense purposes without open auction in collusion with DHA officials. And, they have constructed on it wedding halls, super stores, housing societies, commercial-cum-residential buildings and other commercial facilities in violation of laws.

The land reclamation by DHA and real estate developments on it, however, is a clear violation of Karachi Strategic Development Plan (KSDP) 2020. The section 4.8 of the KDSP 2020 plan states, “reclamation along any section of the sea front either on the landward side or the bordering sea would not be advised” and “for any development to be sustainable and acceptable, the historical rights of the communities of the sea and the coastal village land they occupy ought to be respected”.

Yet, the constructions along the coastline has been expanding exponentially since the last few years, until the Sindh High Court stopped the DHA from any further land reclamation. It is indeed a laudable development which would surely secure Karachi seafront and save coastal communities from calamities.  


Editorial, Infocus

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