The much-awaited decision on the ban placed on construction of high-rise buildings in the city has been announced. To the relief of stakeholders, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has allowed real estate builders to construction commercial and residential projects up to 26 storeys high. The court has specifically mentioned that the buildings should be constructed according to the bylaws specified by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA).
The ban was imposed by the Supreme Court back in May 2017 in response to the water shortfall and worsening sanitation conditions in the city. Karachi is home to 15 million people and water supply to many parts of the city has long been terminated via the lines laid for the purpose. The fact also remains that the residents continue to pay for the water bills in addition to paying private companies to get their water tanks filled.
Under this ban, the builders were initially restricted to construct only ground plus two-storey high structures. Later, on accounts of a sheer drop in related activities that have 1.5 million people attached to the market, the apex court allowed construction of six storeys with approval of the SCBA.
Real estate builders in Karachi with active projects put to halt after the ban were the main affectees. Most of them had sold out all the units planned in their respective projects; their clients had started to ask for the money back for the units which didn’t seem to be ready for possession any time soon.
Coupled with an overall drop in the real estate investment volume throughout the country due to introduction of new property taxation system, the jolt was felt far and wide, with the segments as basic as labour engaged for construction of real estate projects being affected. Association of Builders and Developers was among the first few organisation to speak for the stakeholders. It shared startling facts on how deep the impact is when construction activity in the largest city of Pakistan gets banned.
The stance was well-presented and received by the apex court, which is now giving its okay to resume construction activities after a one and a half year of ban.
The most important part of the verdict is regarding the building bylaws of SBCA – the authority responsible for granting related approvals for construction. SBCA has been there to manage it all in the best interest of the city, and of course in accordance with its existing resource. Its role becomes even more critical now as water conservation has become a national agenda and people cannot be forced to pay for water to private companies when the same can be supplied via proper channels, if tried.
Furthermore, the existing sewerage system in Karachi needs to be updated on modern lines to keep the city from causing any more pollution; the city already struggles with disposing garbage collected on a daily basis.
The right approach
A collective approach with meticulous planning is needed to help Karachi serve its role as Pakistan’s business hub rather than leading to collapsing under its own weight. For this purpose, fair and transparent distribution of resources is as important as production of these resources. The writing on the wall is that intentions are not being judged against the words but on the outcomes of the actions taken.
Departments assigned the task to manage respective services in the city need to sit down, chalk out a plan keeping the city’s future needs in mind, take sincerest efforts to implement these, and help Karachi regain its true worth among the thriving metropolises across the globe.
We are also looking forward to seeing better management of resources and a compassionate approach applied by builders to feel and capitalise on the soul of Karachi, instead of looking at it as a potentially rewarding concrete jungle.