LAHORE: Civil society activists and residents of the affected areas have rejected “illegal and ill-planned” widening of the canal road beyond Dharampura underpass and demanded that the provincial government should honour the Supreme Court’s order in this regard. They also sought restoration of the greenbelts.
Under the canal road modification project, the road at three points beyond Dharampura underpass is being widened by removing greenbelts on both sides of the canal. Civil society organisations and residents of the Lal Pul area said that the government was violating the order of the Supreme Court regarding the canal road modification project.The spirit of the SC judgement had not been maintained in developing the heritage park and decorating the canal bank, by setting aside public convenience and scenic beauty of the canal, they maintained. The Supreme Court in its judgment on Suo Moto Case No. 25, dated September 15, 2011, declared the canal area a “public trust” and “heritage urban park” from Thokar Niaz Baig to Jallo Park.
The SC judgement reads, “The Babmawali-Ravi-Bedian (BRB) Canal and green belt on both sides of the Canal Road (from Jallo Park till Thokar Niaz Beg) is a Public Trust. It shall be treated as Heritage Urban Park forthwith and declared so by an Act to be passed by the Assembly as undertaken by the respondent-Provincial Government.”The residents of the Lal Pul area held a joint citizens meeting, which was participated in by the activists of the Lahore Bachao Tehreek, the Lahore Conservation Society, the Pakistan Environmental Lawyers Association, WWF, Pakistan Sustainability Network, Lahore Environmental Youth Council, and students of LUMS, LSE, Kinnaird College, Government College, Lahore College, Aitchison College, Grammar School, Beachonhouse on Sunday.
Talking to media, the participants said that despite the judgement passed by the SC, which restricted all further widening, the road had been “illegally widened in contempt of court” at 3 places on the canal, which was the violation of the SC orders. The Lal Pul residents have filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court over “violation of Supreme Court orders” and “illegal widening of the canal road” at the Lal Pul area.In addition, despite a stay order on the entire canal area, it is shocking to see that work was resumed at the Lal Pul site in violation of the stay from beginning of December 2012, said the petitioners.
Lal Pul residents said that around six greenbelts, which were used as public parks by the people, had been removed and old trees had been uprooted to widen the canal road. “The sewage system of the Lal Pul area was destroyed by draining the canal road water into the narrow sewage line of the locality. Due to which, water is seen standing inside the house and on streets,” they complained.
They said that the government had also removed two funeral sites in the area, due to which they had to travel a long distance to find a place to offer funeral prayers. Civil society activists and residents of the affected areas passed a resolution, demanding that the Supreme Court take serious note of the illegal interventions and widening of road in violation of its judgment and that “Contempt of Court” action be taken on those responsible.
The proposed Lahore Canal Heritage Act 2012 should be amended to make it a balance and citizen based act, said the resolution, adding that all work should be stopped till the Board of Trustees is in place and comes up with the Lahore Canal Heritage Master Plan and Roadmap for implementation as per the orders of the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan. Urban development experts and environmentalists, including Imrana Tiwana, Erum Aftab, Professor Ejaz, Dr Ayesha and Advocate Malik Afzal spoke on the occasion. – Dailytimes