Ravi in World’ Most Polluted Rivers to Revised Housing Markup Subsidy; Infocus Weekly Briefs

by M. Wasim
Weely Infocus Briefs

20 February, 2022

Ravi amongst World’ Most Polluted River

A study on pharmaceutical pollution of the world`s rivers conducted at the University of York and published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US has placed Ravi in Lahore among the most polluted rivers of the world. The Study has detected pharmaceutical particles including paracetamol, nicotine, caffeine and epilepsy and diabetes drugs in the river Ravi, posing a `threat to environment and human health`.

Expressing concern over these findings about Ravi pollution, environmentalist Afia Salam says the river has been turned into a drain with human and industrial wastes. `We have laws about dumping waste water and industrial wastage but no law is being implemented in the country`, she opines. She also points out that the current government is planning to build Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project on the river basin which would further increase pollution. According to an Asian Development Bank report on River Ravi revitalization plan, the condition of the River Ravi and its nullahs is a `serious threat to the health` for basin residents.

State Bank cuts Markup Rates for Housing Finance

The the State Bank of Pakistan in a circular this week announced that the government has decided to revise downward the markup rates for housing subsidy scheme under Tier-I, which is used to finance housing units in the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority projects. The decision has been taken  in view of the feedback received from various stakeholders. The subsidised markup financing for one to five-year tenor will now be 2%. Similarly, the subsidised markup financing for six to 10 years will be 4%, while the same financing for 11 to 15 years will be charged at 5%. However, the government has provided a number of incentives and took a series of measures to give a boost to the housing sector but growth remained much below the expectations.

Building Laws amended in Lahore for High-rises

The Punjab government has approved an amendment to the LDA`s Building and Zoning Regulations-2019 under which the restriction on the buildings` height have been removed. That paves the way for the revised layout plan of Finance & Trade Centre in Johar Town and skyscrapers in the high-end zone of Lahore.

The Lahore`s Finanace & Trade Center — with a total area of over 1,182 kanals, of which 65% has already been auctioned — is one of the few mega commercial hubs, attracting a number of local and foreign investors interested in launching various projects there. While the huge difference in the prices of the plots auctioned by the LDA and the Centeral Business District Authority forced the former to bring an amendment in Chapter of the Building Regulations to enhance the value of plots already sold or yet to be auctioned.

Judiciary stops KPK authorities to make Industrial Estate on Agricultural Land

The Peshawar High Court has issued a stay order this week suspending a notification of the Swabi deputy commissioner for acquiring `fertile` land to set up a small industrial estate. A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Mohammad Faheem Wali fixed March 8 for the next hearing into a petition filed by Swabi residents against the imposition of Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act by the DC in his capacity as land acquisition collector.

The petitioners claim that the land being acquired by the administration for the establishment of an industrial zone by the Small Industries Development Board (SIDB) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is mostly agricultural land and not barren. The bench observed that the SIDB should first improve the conditions of the existing industrial estates instead of acquiring agricultural land for new estates, as despite being an agrarian country Pakistan had to import agriculture products.

Bundal & Buddo Islands declared Protected Forests

The Sindh forest department finally issued notification declaring the intertidal zone of Thatta and Sujawal districts, including the areas of Korangi and Phitti creek on which the islands of Bundal and Buddo exist, as protected forests. According to the notification, an estimated area of 750,000 acres has been declared protected under two schedules of the Forest Act.

The Notifications states “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 29 of the Forest Act, 1927 and all other powers enabling the government in this behalf, and in supersession of all notification issued in this behalf, the Government of Sindh is pleased to declare the intertidal land (mangrove areas) of Thatta and Sujawal districts described in the following Schedule to be `Protected Forests`with immediate effect.”

Meanwhile federal minister Ali Zaidi said  the Port Qasim Authority would challenge the Sindh government`s decision declaring Bundal and Buddo islands as protected forests in court becasue both islands fell within the territorial limits of the Port as per coordinates.

Steel Producers asks FBR to rectify Tax Ambiguity

Steel producers have asked the Federal Board of Revenue to remove the ambiguity in the sales tax rules due to which they have not been able to supply steel to tax-exempt mega projects in Gwadar including free zone, airport and others. Pakistan Association of Large Steel Producers in a statement said that in the absence of a proper mechanism for availing sales tax exemption the producers could take benefit of this incentive.

The government has announced exemptions to the domestic industry for supplying world-class materials to the Special Economic Zones, Gwadar projects under CPEC, export processing zones and other big government projects. But the ground reality is different, as the contractors of the Gwadar Free Zones are not engaging the local companies to get steel supplies and are getting imported material. Therefore the steel producers urged the government to rectify the rules and take some urgent measures to enable the local steel industry to supply steel to such tax exempt projects to ensure the domestic industry benefits from these mega projects.

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