A man of vision and good expertise, Arif Shaikhani is a renowned developer of Karachi. He is the CEO of Diamond Builders and currently serving as Vice Chairman of ABAD. Being a veteran of the construction sector, his vast knowledge and considerate opinions on construction industry updates are highly valued by all stakeholders. During a brief sitting at ABAD House he shares some of his views, which are published for our followers.
Why Karachi is always under the radar for violation of building laws in Pakistan?
Arif Shaikhani: If you observe closely, all kinds of construction activities are stagnant in Karachi and rest of the Sindh in general. The reason behind the halt is that hundreds of approvals are pending in SBCA offices and we cannot speculate when our documents would be cleared. SEPA and SBCA have notified laws aimed at protection of environment during construction and every builder and developer, who is member of ABAD, has to adhere to these regulations else we will be penalized and attract objections.
Do you mean to say that being the Vice Chairman ABAD that there is no violation in building constructions carried out by you?
Arif Shaikhani: ABAD is a national level representative organization of the Builders and Developers. It is the biggest community of builders and developers of Pakistan. It’s a socially responsible as well as a respectable institution which is self-accountable and has a proper check and balance system for in house members. This institution ensures that none of the member violates environment and building laws. There is a complainant cell at ABAD for the general public, besides environment and CSR Committees that safeguard the sanctity of ABAD and deal with members who give a bad image to the association.
But violation of building laws still exist. What are the reasons due to which irregular construction still prevails in Karachi?
Arif Shaikhani: The primary problem is unavailability of resources. There is shortage of water, gas, transport and etc. If all these things are available, I am sure building laws will never be violated. Shelter is the basic need of people and to fulfill that, they are ready to live even in shanty towns where basic amenities are absent. Similarly they are ready to live in projects which are constructed on encroachments, lack regularization and lack proper documents. Moreover, due to lack of housing and soaring prices of land, people are forced to live at places which do not fulfill the environmental laws laid down by the government.
Karachi is rated quite low in the international livability index. The reason is unchecked high rises which are built without basic human services. But the practice still continues, why?
Arif Shaikhani: High rise development remains the only viable option in Karachi city. The prices of land have risen extraordinarily because the influx of population in the city is enormous and immigrants from small and rural areas are settling here for better lifestyle. They need a lot of homes and working spaces such as shops and offices and all of that cannot be accommodated in 3700 square kilometer area. Therefore vertical construction is necessary to accommodate 2-3 crore people living in the city. Yes it should be sustainable and eco-friendly and all that depends on SEPA to enforce its laws.
But will vertical construction suit Karachi when there is shortage of basic amenities like water and no concept of green buildings in the city?
Arif Shaikhani: There is no doubt that any building constructed with use of green material has a very strong potential to perform in an environmental friendly manner but we are yet to utilize the true potential of Karachi. As an example for better water resource management, small dams and rainwater harvesting system can help mitigate the scarcity of water in the city. The coastal belt has exceptional potential for wind energy but nothing has been done so far to take benefit of this resource. These are all green ways for implementing civic amenities. If they are implemented, the development would definitely be sustainable and eco-friendly.
Cost of construction material has hiked tremendously especially steel, cement and paints. If the government encourages recycling of ecofriendly material, can the crisis resolve. What do you think?
Arif Shaikhani: Residential and commercial project developers are already using green material technology in some way or the other. The ceramic tiles are being used instead of vinyl flooring which enable the buildings to stay much cooler. Ecobricks are new entrants in the market and they are used as an alternative of cement block and clay brick. LED lights and energy savers are energy efficient lighting solutions and we are already using it. There are lot of other things. I can’t say at the moment when and how the prices of construction materials decrease, but that’s sure the trend of eco-friendly materials and green construction is growing day by day and gradually it would overtake traditional products.