KABUL (Pajhwok): Based on current laws, construction of more than three-storey buildings in residential areas is not permissible in Kabul.
But violations of these rules and regulations by powerful figures continue unabated, prompting complaints from residents, who want the relevant laws to be enforced.
Article 5 of the licence procedure, residential areas should not have more than three-storey buildings. But hundreds of high-rise buildings have been constructed in various parts of the capital in violation to the procedure.
Abdul Ahad Wahid, former deputy director of construction affairs at the Kabul Municipality, said around 35 percent of buildings constructed over the last two decades in violation of the relevant rules.
“High-rise buildings have been constructed in return for bribes paid to government officials,” Wahid alleged.
Mohammad Daud Sultanzoi, former Kabul mayor, went on record as saying that most of such buildings, which had already been constructed or were under construction, involved housing mafia.
He had acknowledged that all such buildings were constructed were in violation of the master plan.
After the Taliban’s takeover, Pajhwok Afghan News findings show, the construction of such structure continues in Khair Khana, Qala-i-Fatullah, Shahr-i-Naw, Taimani and other areas of the capital.
Residents of these localities say all families want the sanctity of their house should be protected, but neighbours spurned construction rules and built apartments with more than three stories.
Halt to construction of high-rise buildings
Gul Agha, a resident of Khair Khana, pointed to a seven-storey building in the area and said, “Our neighbour Haji Shafi used his influence and took permission for a four-storey building. Instead he constructed six stories and work on a seventh is underway.”
He called the construction of buildings with more than four stories illegal: “Believe me our women and girls don’t feel safe while walking in the yard. Our neighbours have similar complaints, We told them repeatedly to stop it, but they don’t listen.”
He claimed powerful figures constructed high-rise buildings by using their influence and money. The present rulers should stop it now and arrest offenders.”
“I visited the 15th police district a week ago and complained to the Taliban, who summoned the owner of the building and stopped the construction But a week later, he resumed work on the building and it is still continuing,” he alleged.
Maulvi Saidullah Sabwan, chief of the 15th police district, told that they had received complaints about the construction of high-rise buildings and stopped the process.
About the resumption of work on these buildings, he warned of halting work again if anyone violated their privacy.
He said that they would soon meet officials concerned on the matter. However, Sabwan said they had not so far met them as they were busy with other tasks.
This is not the only building with more than three stories Four other buildings with five to eight stories also exist in the area.
Ahmad Murid, who lives in the same street, pointed to the high-rise building and said: “We are surrounded by high-rise buildings and cannot see the sun. Our women do not feel comfortable while walking in the house. This is not an issue affecting one or two families, but many people in the area have the same problem.”
He also said that people from their street referred to the 15th police district and complained about the illegal construction. He added that the police officials stopped the construction, but it was resumed a few days later.
Haji Mirza Hussain, father of Haji Shafi, the owner of the building, said he started work on it in March 2020 and they were presently working on the seventh floor.
With regard to complaints from his neighbours, he said, “One of them erected his building to six stories, some others told us make our building one storey higher than his. And we did that.”
About his violation of construction procedures, he did not say anything and refused to share any municipality documents regarding his building.
This comes as the Kabul Municipality stopped the illegal construction of two buildings in the same street on Sunday.
Qala-i-Fatullah is another area where some people are constructing buildings in violation of rules.
Murtaza, a resident of Qala-i-Fatullah, pointed to two buildings and said that their construction was going on in violation to the relevant law.
He said high-rise buildings had sparked concerns for him and his neighbours, who did not feel comfortable in their houses.
Many other buildings in this area have also been constructed in violation of municipal rules. Locals have often complained about the violations.
“Women do not feel comfortable in their houses after these buildings were constructed. They remain inside their rooms and cannot stroll in the house,” he said.
He said they had not approached any official source as their complaints were ignored repeatedly in the past.
Work on one of the buildings has been stopped over the last few days, but the construction of another nearby building was still ongoing, he added.
Owners claim having permission
Ahmad Navid, speaking on behalf of the owner of a nine-storey building in Qala-i-Fatullah, said the previous government took bribes for the construction of buildings. But the problem has now been solved.
He parried the question how much money he had paid in bribe. However, he said the bribery issue had been resolved after the fall of the previous government.
About complaints from his neighbors over the constructing the high-rise building, he insisted the work was legal and had received permission from the previous government, which allowed him to build more than 10 stories. However, he did not share documents.
Haji Sami, a shareholder in an eight-storey building in the area, said they had got permission from the municipality for erecting a five-storey building. However, they constructed eight and half stories.
About people’s complaints, he said neighbours did not grumble and district police, whose palm had been greased, also supported his case.
Sami said he later started construction of a tall building on his land plot, but work on the building was recently stopped by the municipality for ‘unknown’ reasons.
Noor Mohammad, guard of the building, told Pajhwok municipality officers stopped work on the building and asked its owner to share property documents.
In response to a question about building construction in the previous administration, he said: “We were paying 50,000 afghanis for each storey but we don’t pay anything under the current government.”
Experts want illegal structures stopped
Eng. Mohammad Seddiq Noori, former head of the third district municipality, of Kabul, told Pajhwok that in line with rules, buildings with three to four stories could be constructed in residential areas. But 30 to 40-storey buildings can be constructed in commercial areas.
“In Karta-i-Char, Dehbori and Karta-i-Mamorin areas of the third police district, four and five-storey buildings are permissible. But some people would construct more stories during holidays,” he added.
About injustice in issuing permits, he said: “Due to links with officials, influence and corruption, some individuals were allowed to build nine-storey buildings. But others were allowed to construct only four-storey buildings.”
Noori maintained: “Parliament members, government officials and powerful figures did not care about municipality officers. That was the reason we failed to stop illegal high-rise buildings in residential areas.”
He asked the current administration to enforce justice and stop illegal constructions by powerful figures as well as examine their revenue sources through a commission.
Mohammad Ali, a construction engineer in the Ministry of Higher Education, said high-rise buildings in residential areas was not allowed to ensure people’s privacy and rights.
Illegal buildings owners to be punished
Maulvi Hamdullah Nomani, acting Kabul mayor, also said owners of high-rise buildings would be fined.
He criticised the construction of illegal buildings, saying a regulation would be made soon. People constructing tall buildings in residential areas will be fined under the propose rule.
A municipality official, who wished to go unnamed, said they had ordered suspension of work on all under-construction buildings in Kabul until their documents were reviewed.
Hundreds of high-rise buildings have reportedly been constructed without permission and in violation of municipality law in the last two decades.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.