Karachi Cantonments need unified building bylaws

The confusion created due to the lack of a unified building code in cantonment areas of Karachi hampers the decision-making ability of all the parties involved in the construction and development sector, thus reducing potential investment opportunities. A new draft law was agreed to in 2019, showing signs of a possible solution, but the sluggish bureaucratic system ended it.

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Unified building bylaws for the cantonment areas of Karachi need to be enacted or in other words a single building code is must for all cantonment areas in Karachi. Despite a pressing need, and its awareness this matter is stuck for many decades in sluggish bureaucracy. 

There are currently 7 cantonment areas in Karachi run under the 1924 Cantonment Act (Indian Cantts also set up under same law). These include Malir Cantt, Faisal Cantt, Clifton Cantt, Karachi Cantt (set up in 1842), Korangi Cantt, Madrasi Para and Manora Cantt. 

Since these cantonment areas evolved, as local garrisons, in different time periods starting from 19th century, when Sindh was conquered by British under Charles Napier, so there are different building bylaws in these areas.

But now Karachi is one large megalopolis, and these different bylaws create a huge confusion and uncertainty for builders, investors, architects, government officials, lawyers and courts. Builders face many issues since there is no uniform code in all these cantonments over usage of land, classification of permits, drainage and sanitation requirements, how many floors could be built, what percentage of area could be covered within each usage (for example residential, commercial, green spaces, etc).

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These potential confusions make decision making process very difficult for builders as different cantonments come under different legal jurisdictions and building bylaws interpreted by different authorities makes any kind of decision making process very slow and cumbersome and no wonder that dispute resolution is all the more complex.

Lot of ambiguities over the implementation exist for the builder, investor, law firm and if any matter is disputed in front of the courts there is total confusion. This has slowed down investment and development over the decades. 

While all stakeholders of Karachi agree that this presents a challenge, yet there is no solution in sight. Issue in recent years was once again discussed thread bare between potential investors and the cantonment board authorities, when General Hasnat Gilani was DG Military Lands and Cantonment (2018- 2021)– a system was launched to review the by laws, a new draft law was agreed in 2019, even a one window system was put in place.

Read more: Construction sector builds the economy but needs attention

However, with the change of leadership new law could not be notified – and matter is again stuck. In the larger interest of investments and uniform developments across Karachi federal government must intervene to resolve this deadlock. 

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