The Supreme Court has now swung into action: on Wednesday a two-judge bench ordered Karachi Development Authority (KDA) to cancel all illegal allotments of amenity plots and remove encroachments from nearly 35,000 amenity plots in Karachi within two months.
The city’s steady transformation into a concrete jungle is the result of a number of factors: dearth of urban planning, unbridled corruption and a wanton disregard for people’s quality of life. The apex court has taken to task KDA officials for their ineptitude and alleged collusion with the land grabbers who blatantly use public land to enrich themselves.
Amenity plots are often eyed greedily by influential elements of society, whether they wield their clout through the barrel of a gun or due to their political/institutional influence. In Karachi, it is often a mix of both with the result that scores of such spaces have been utilized for commercial or residential purposes, often through the process known as ‘china cutting’. The term refers to the carving out of plots from land reserved for playgrounds, green belts and other public services that are then sold off. Sometimes, educational institutions and madrassahs/mosques illegally occupy amenity plots which then rent them out for weddings and other private events—often in collusion with a corrupt bureaucracy that facilitates the land grabbers by issuing permits and approvals in blithe disregard for the law.
The law, reiterated by a Sindh High Court decision in 2003, states that no amenity plot can be converted to, or utilized for, any other purpose than originally intended. The so-called guardians of Karachi’s assets, who set such little store by the denizens’ needs, must not be allowed to brazenly use public land for their self-aggrandizement.