CDA blames US embassy for land violations

* CDA suffers a hefty loss of Rs 6 billion as it failed to recover cost of land, ground rent and waste disposal related penalties

CDA blames US  embassy for land violations

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the United States embassy in Islamabad have locked horns over several alleged land violations, as Member Planning Waseem Ahmed vowed strict action against the violators and their facilitators.

Documents obtained by Daily Times reveal the city planner suffered a hefty loss of more than Rs 6 billion after it failed to recover the cost of land, annual ground rent and waste disposal related penalties from the embassy.

"I have ordered an inquiry against the officials who either gave undue favors to the US embassy or failed to check the violations. We have also issued several notices to the embassy in this regard," said the member planning.

The US embassy, which is building a sprawling structure in the Diplomatic Enclave, has denied the allegations. "We have coordinated closely with CDA from the beginning of the embassy construction project and continue to do so. The plans for construction were approved by the CDA in 2012 with the issuance of a building permit," a spokesperson of the US embassy told Daily Times.

The spokesperson elaborated that the embassy had signed a 99-year lease agreement with the CDA in 2011 for the compound. "The lease payments are and always have been current."

The spokesperson said the embassy had also installed a waste water treatment plant on the site that recycled water to be used for irrigation purposes within the compound.

Official documents reveal the city planner had allowed the contractor to utilize two acres of land adjacent to the US embassy without paying any additional cost. Further, no transparent procedure was followed to execute the construction work.

Sources privy to the development claim that all the illegal construction made by the US embassy had the backing of officials of the civic authority.

The documents also reveal that the US embassy has not paid the cost of land as well as annual ground rent for the last four years, inflicting a loss of 404.081 million rupees to the civic authority.

The security agencies of the country have also shown concerns about the security threats, possible monitoring of confidential government buildings in red zone including Parliament, President's Secretariat and Prime Minister's Secretariat by the US embassy.

The civic authority is likely to issue a notice to the US embassy for the recovery of dues.

During scrutiny by the department concerned of the CDA, it came to surface that the building plan of the site for the US embassy was approved by the Building Control Section (BCS) on January 10, 2010.

The documents revealed that the BCS of the CDA vide No CDA/ADBC.6(77)/US-EMB/Dip.Encl/68/203 wrote a letter on April 26, 2016 to the Director General (Americas) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, intimating it that the US embassy was disposing sewage to the adjacent nullah in violation of the Clause 5(i) of the Building Control Regulations, 2005.

"The administration of US Embassy didn't take the matter seriously as they didn't respond to the letter written to them by the civic body," said an official who wished not to be named.

Currently, the US embassy has the possession of 41,140 square yards, excluding the 2 acres of land being illegally occupied by the embassy.

It is pertinent to mention here that the 11th board meeting of the CDA in 2012 had concluded that permission for the construction of eight stories by the US embassy should be sought from the prime minister of Pakistan. The board had sent the case to the Cabinet Division. Though the case has not been approved yet by the PM, the construction of the eight-storey building has already entered the final stage.