The earthquake of 2005 jolted various cities across the country. Balakot tehsil was hit particularly hard and literally erased from the map. Survivors of the area continue to wait for assistance promised almost a decade ago.
One of these promises included a housing society named New Balakot City. Though the project was inaugurated in 2007, it still awaits completion. According to a news source, the provincial government has yet to take possession of 86 percent of the land acquired.
To find out the reasons for delay, Zameen.com contacted Col. Abrar, the project director for New Balakot City.
“Illegal occupants are not ready to vacate the land. They have approached the courts of law to raise their concerns and their demands have become the bone of contention. They claim that compensation rates are too low for the properties they are supposed to lose, while some landowners do not intend to sell their land at all,” Col. Abrar told Zameen.com. “New Balakot City was worth PKR 12 billion, according to the PC-1 of the project. However, the cost has increased manifold since its inception because the property rates are rising every day.”
When asked about the number of plots to be handed over to the affectees, the project director said that over 3,600 plots will be allotted, which will cater to 3,600 families.
“Funds for the private land, spanning more than 11,436 kanals, were given to the KP government. The payment was made in 2006 and the project was launched in 2007, due to be completed in 2012. Unfortunately, it is still underdeveloped because of the litigation issues,” he said.
However, no one can say exactly when the project will be completed.
“The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) had been given only 2,000 kanals of clear land for development. We have completed road infrastructure and the sewerage system in the clear area. Furthermore, we have already created 1,500 plots, which have been handed over to the KP government for distribution, but the government has not distributed these plots yet. It is the KP government’s responsibility to get the land evacuated. Therefore, it is not possible to quote the completion date of the project,” added Col. Abrar.
For the time being, survivors are forced to live in makeshift houses provided by the Saudi Arabia government. While the authorities concerned blame courts for the delay and prolong their bickering, these very survivors – who have already lost enough – continue to suffer.
According to a news source, over 5,000 families are still living in temporary abodes. As we go on with our comfy lives, we cannot even begin to understand their plight.
The government, courts and other departments concerned should look into the matter right away. Perhaps this particular project will not bring in revenue to the exchequer, but it will bring much needed stability to so many in dire need of it. It is not always about money and economic growth. Humanity should be our top priority.
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