E-11 Islamabad; Illegal Constructions Caused Nullahs To Overflow

The people of Islamabad witnessed heavy rains on Wednesday and it led to urban flooding. The authorities were left with no other option but to seek military assistance for rescue efforts.

Seemingly the incident took place due to heavy rain (103mm) and the existence of narrow nullahs. However, the scenario of heavy rain like the one experienced on the 28th of July 2021, is not uncommon for Islamabad. So why were these nullahs not wide enough to accommodate the water flow? This was because the nullah in the E-12/D-12 side was covered and narrowed down due to the construction of the housing society; after around 200 meters, it joins another narrow stream coming from the D-11 side, creating a bottleneck, forcing the water to gush out. This has been confirmed through satellite images taken almost two decades apart. The images revealed that private housing societies in Islamabad’s E-11 sector not only reduced the width of the nullah in E-11/2 but also altered its natural flow which caused urban flooding of this nature.

Though the civic agency in the light of CDA Ordinance 1960 is supposed to regulate all buildings and houses within 906 square kilometers of Islamabad, Real Estate Golra (which also falls in E-11) was exempted from acquisition by the orders of former president Gen Ayub Khan due to the presence of the Golra shrine. Therefore, CDA did not acquire the sector, and those allotted the land, sold it to private developers; This resulted in mushroom growth of unauthorized buildings. This includes the Medical Cooperative that changed the natural stream of the nullah in 2010-12 by making its zigzag part straight in street 2 of E-11/2. This is where a woman and her child were killed in E-11/2, when gushing water from an overflowing nullah broke the rear wall of the house and entered the basement. At the time, in 2010-12, Capital Development Authority (CDA) approved the layout plan of the society. Only on the basis of an approved layout plan, the society started selling plots and initiated construction before receiving a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the CDA. Eventually, CDA revoked the approval of the layout plan of the society a few years ago, but it was too late. Environmental experts have raised questions on the role of CDA and Islamabad’s civil administration in the entire episode. 

E-11, located in the heart of the city, is dotted with unauthorized high-rise buildings and several illegal cooperative housing schemes. This is a serious oversight by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and district administration since it is one of their primary responsibilities to deal with such housing schemes. A resident has been reported to say that a few years ago, the management of the society had built a road on the nullah after covering it. He said the nullah had also become a dumping site for the societies operating in E-11.

While CDA’s rescuers and officials of the fire brigade, sanitation directorate, and water supply remained busy in the rescue operation, CDA Chairman Amer Ali Ahmed and Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat also visited E-11. It does not make up for the fact that three cars and several motorcycles were washed away and two people lost their lives due to this negligence.

To ensure that this incident was the last of its kind, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who is also a local MNA, has asked the DC to identify legal and illegal constructions on all storm drains of E-11 and prepare a formal plan by next week to demolish the encroachments. He said if the encroachments were not demolished, floods would occur in the rainy season every year, and the lives of the residents of the area would be in danger. 

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