Swat Floods Blamed on Politically-Backed Encroachments

The majority of the buildings, hotels and other infrastructure built along the banks of the Swat River because of political and bureaucratic pressure are found to be in violation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa River Protection Act 2014.

An official report revealed that most of these buildings belong to politicians from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Awami National Party (ANP), and other people affiliated with them.

The law states that “No person shall construct or undertake any related physical works of any commercial building or non-commercial building or undertake any other development work, within two hundred feet to be measured along the slope (lay off land) beyond high water limit on either side of the rivers or their tributaries or on a space within the limits between the banks of a river”.

However, this point and the Act’s provision of setting up special courts to try such offenses have been disregarded.

Meanwhile, Tehsil Municipal Administration’s (TMA) criteria to acquire clearance from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the National Highway Authority (NHA), the Pakhtunkhwa Highway Authority (PKHA), and the irrigation department, along with soil testing report and structural fitness certificate were also ignored during the construction of the hotels and other buildings on the river.

The report detailed that it had happened due to political pressure and the negligence of local administration, as key political figures from PTI and PML-N had used their influence to permit illegal constructions.

As far as the bureaucracy is concerned, all the concerned authorities had simply issued notices to multiple departments in question to prevent allegations against them.

The report also revealed that these tactics had been adopted in coordination with the owners of the buildings, and detailed that it is essential for strict legal action to be taken against the offenders in order to prevent a repeat of such violations.

Note that tourism in the area has produced an influential interest group that carries great political weight and exploits the system. The report also contains the recommendation that the irrigation and revenue departments must clearly demarcate the riverbed in accordance with the River Protection Act 2014.

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