Big to pay for their small minds
RAWALPINDI, May 3: Three powerful property developers of the country have to surrender, at the intervention of the Supreme Court, some 2,300 acres of land in their adverse possession for a dam for common good.
Dawn has learnt that the Punjab government has decided to recover about 18,566 kanals of land from the three big â€“ Defence Housing Authority, Bahria Town and Habib Rafiq Ltd â€“ in Kahuta and Kallar Syedaan tehsils for the construction of Dhadhocha Dam to meet the water needs mainly of Rawalpindi and to some extent of Islamabad.
A former military officer, Lt-Col Tariq Kamal, set the court action in motion by complaining that the companies` acquisition and sale of thousands of acres of land at the dam site militated against the public good.
His petition to the court argued that the citizens of Rawalpindi would lose water for drinking and sewerage purposes after 2015 when Rawal Dam completes its designed 50 year life. Studies conducted by the Punjab government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) supported his argument.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry consequently sought a detailed report on the Dhadhocha project from the chief secretary of Punjab. As chief secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa confirmed major portions of the complaint, the chief justice asked for a comprehensive report on what steps the government of Punjab was taking “to save the land and to ensure that it remains unencumbered”.
As a result, the Punjab government has issued the requisite notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act to acquire the land. Mr Khosa has reported to the apex court that “a scheme Feasibility Study of Dhadhocha Dam has been included in the Annual Development Programme 2010-11. This is one of the priority development schemes of the government in order to meet the needs of drinking water of Rawalpindi city”.
Official and Court records available with Dawn reveal that Punjab government has said the pond area of the reservoir would also improve the ground water table and the environment of the surrounding areas. The area under the proposed dam falls in three tehsils of Rawalpindi district, including 7,977 kanal in Rawalpindi, 170 kanal in Kahuta and 10,418 kanal in Kallar Sayyedan.
The Punjab government has given an undertaking to the apex court to ensure that the proposed site of the dam and its catchment area remain free from all types of encumbrances for purposes of the construction of the dam. “Necessary steps are being taken to prepare, approve and fund this scheme in public interest”, said the official record.
The provincial government also informed the court that “in case the construction was raised at the site of the dam with a pond area of approximately 1,800 acres by DHA and Bahria Town, the people of Rawalpindi shall be deprived of their water requirements, and the loss would be irretrievable.”
In the meanwhile, the DHA in collaboration with Bahria Town and Habib Rafique Ltd purchased land and sold thousands of plots to private citizens and moved the dam site away despite repeated protests by civic agencies in Rawalpindi.
The DHA said it would construct the dam at the changed location but its water would not be supplied to Rawalpindi but only to different phases of DHA.
“While procuring land in the vicinity and planning to develop major housing scheme in the area, the DHA, Islamabad ignored the overall requirements of the Rawalpindi City and the planning of the governenmt, despite requests from the civic agencies like office of district Nazim, district coordination officer and Rawalpindi Development Authority”, the Punjab government said in its report to the supreme court.
Having a catchment area of 334 sq-km, Dhadhocha dam should have a pondage area of about 18,000 kanals with gross storage capacity of 89.95 million cubic meet and the proposed supply of 25 million gallons per day at 30 gallons presumptive consumption per person.
The complainant has alleged DHA, Islamabad procured land at the dam site at Rs50,000 per kanal and sold it at an average of Rs3,800,000 per kanal to private citizens and military officials. He alleged that under a controversial and dubious agreement, the DHA, Bahria Town and HRL were sharing the land and construction cost of the proposed dam at a different site for their own use. The apex court is expected to take up the matter for detailed scrutiny in the coming few days.