Unsustainable development

November 27, 2022

Citizens have unresolved reservations about several development projects under way in the federal capital

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number of construction projects are currently under way in Islamabad.

Recently, the Rawal Interchange project entered the last stage. The interchange is meant to be a gateway to Murree and Kashmir. Residents of the city have breathed a sigh a relief upon opening of this interchange as now they will not be facing long tailbacks.

A large number of tourists from the Punjab drive through this junction to visit Murree and Kashmir.

Bhara Kahu is the next stop on the Murree Road. This is where the traffic is often clogged. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had promised an overhead bridge to solve the problem. Work on moved slowly after his removal from the office.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif performed the ground-breaking ceremony for this bypass and overhead bridge on September 30.

However, it seems that the Capital Development Authority started this project in a haste, while bulldozing the due process. Shortly after the ground-breaking, nearly 200 kanals of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) land was taken over by the civic body. The boundary wall was brought down and some trees were cut.

The matter was first highlighted on the social media networks of the university teachers and students. Later, the issue was also picked up by the mainstream media.

Dr Azizur Rehman, the principal of the QAU School of Law and others have since moved court against this project.

The court has stayed the construction activity on the land and retained the status quo. Unnecessary haste and disregard of rules on part of the CDA has thus ended up delaying the project rather than expediting it.

The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency has called a public hearing - mandatory for preparing the Environmental Impact Assessment report for the project. Under the rules, no development project can be initiated without an EIA report.

Dr Tariq Banuri, the former chairman of the Higher Education Commission, had said that he resisted moves by the previous government to take over land from universities, including in Islamabad. He claimed that this led to his eventual removal from office.

This time, however, the HEC has done nothing.

QAU Vice Chancellor Dr Muhammad Ali is not only a leading academician but also a member of the CDA Board. After the one-sided decision by the CDA to change the site, a meeting of the QAU Syndicate was called to discuss the matter.

For several decades the Islamabad chief commissioner has also acted as CDA chairman and exercised the power that rightfully belong to an elected local government. Successive government leaders have found the arrangement convenient. However, due process sometimes gets ignored as a result.

The QAU is in Zone III of Islamabad which comprises the National Park area where construction is discouraged.

Nearby, however, construction of Margalla Avenue is continuing at top speed. At the start of this project, some citizens had protested against it, claiming that it runs through National Park area. The road, however, was found to be part of the master plan.

Another problem with the road was the villages in Shah Allah Ditta area.

Syed Zeeshan Haider Naqvi, the deputy mayor of the federal capital, actively pursued the case of these villagers with the CDA. Talking to The News on Sunday, he said that CDA Chairman Usman Younas has agreed to build an interchange for Shah Allah Ditta on Margalla Avenue.

Shah Allah Ditta has ancient caves considered holy by Buddhists. The area is frequented by ambassadors and dignitaries from several countries as well as tourists. This is the last village in Islamabad district and borders on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Work is also continuing on IJ Principal Road. The main Pir Wadhai Bus Station and Fruit and Vegetable Market are located along this road. Nullah Leh crosses into Rawalpindi from Islamabad near this road.

Islamabad Expressway, the main thoroughfare of Islamabad, is also being extended but the pace of work on this important road has been slow. The road sharply narrows down at the bridge right after Gulberg Interchange. One-thirds of Islamabad’s three million population lives along this road. In addition, heavy traffic from the Punjab to the KP and Kashmir is diverted to this road.

The construction project has missed several deadlines. It has three bridges and three interchanges. Two of the interchanges have been completed and become functional but work on the DHA Interchange is still to be completed. Even if the road is extended, it will not solve the traffic problems until the city gets a bypass and a robust public transport system.

The bypass is part of the new master plan for the city. A public transport system has also been put in place but makes the city look more awkward than before.

From Faizabad Interchange, the road becomes Faisal Avenue. Technically speaking, this is the only signal-free road in Islamabad. Once completed, it will may be counted as a big achievement by the government.


The writer teaches development support communication at the International Islamic University Islamabad. He tweets HassanShehzadZ and can be reached atHassan.shehzadiiui.edu.pk



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