The one-man band

Canal RoadDespite the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) directives on the Lahore Canal Road widening plan, in line with the recommendations of the Mediation Committee, the Punjab government has chosen to violate that SC mandate.

In the SC’s judgment, the green belts along the length of the Canal Road — all the way from Thokar Niaz Beg to Dharampura — had been declared a public trust to be developed as a Heritage Urban Park. For every tree cut, four trees had to be planted so as to check the resulting environmental damage. However, the Punjab government’s particular interpretation of the order has raised many an eyebrow. Neither re-plantation nor the beautification measures that were to be instituted in the area are apparent. Instead the canal has been fenced off and barriers and overhead bridges erected. All of this assumes that people would still want to visit an ‘imprisoned’ canal. The once beautiful Lahore canal has been left ravaged — deprived of its beauty and essence. This development needs the attention of the SC. After spending an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money on the project, the canal looks ugly and has become inaccessible to and unusable by the public. To add to this debacle, Lahore is witnessing the unfolding of another disaster, namely the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) on one of its busiest and most congested roads, Ferozepur Road, which had already taken a long time and required heavy expenditure to convert it to a two-lane road.

Town planners, traffic planners and environmentalists are criticising the provincial government for brushing aside all rules and regulations and even the long overdue Mass Transit System project while undertaking the BRTS at the whim of an ambitious chief minister after his visit to Turkey where ‘epiphany struck’. Many anomalies in the BRTS have been identified. The feasibility report is yet to be submitted by a Turkish company while inappropriate Chinese buses are being imported without inviting bids as per the rules. Neither an Environment Impact Assessment has been sought nor the technical flaws in the construction of the BRTS have been given due consideration. Construction of mega projects offer huge profits and the canal and BRTS projects gives a fair idea of how, under the one-man show of the Punjab Chief Minister, only a select few are being awarded huge contracts worth billions of rupees. The way the affairs of Punjab are being run make it seem more like a Sultanate rather than a modern province. What an utter waste of already scarce resources. –  Dailytimes