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Fleeting moments

November 14, 2019

Spending prudently


November 14, 2019

Some government civic organisations show much propensity for overdoing things that are not needed and overlooking what’s urgently needed. Beautification of roads and underpasses takes priority over laying a functional drainage system. The former is visible to the public eye and wins brownie points while the latter remains invisible.

Beautifying main roads in posh areas may not impress the residents living there as much as the sense of deprivation it creates among those living in congested streets in downtown where overflowing sewage on narrow roads is part of life. The inhabitants of these areas have a right to question why their needs are ignored when tax money is spent on garish projects in upscale localities.

Most of the underpasses on the Canal Bank road in Lahore have been embellished with fancy lights and paintings while the very function of smooth trafficability the roads are meant to provide suffers due to lack of effective policing. Frequently letters from many cities complaining about messy traffic appear in various newspapers.

Unruly traffic is a serious problem that provincial administrations fail to control, which reflects badly on their performance. From Peshawar to Karachi, traffic in every city is no less than a nightmare. Motorcyclists add to the traffic chaos. A separate lane for them would greatly help maintain smooth traffic flow.

Perhaps the most unneeded structure planned to be constructed on Multan Road adjacent to the NAB office and police checkpost is a 130ft wide and 60ft high ‘Gate to Lahore’. The most ridiculous part of the decision is not the structure itself but the choice of its site. This particular location remains clogged with traffic round the clock. Vehicles coming from or heading to the Motorway have to pass through this point, beside the innumerable vehicles traveling on the main Multan Road.

The traffic muddle on this point is almost a permanent feature. More so, when VIPs get a clarion call to appear at the NAB office. On this occasion, long lines of TV vans of different channels, newspaper reporters with their cameras and supporters of politicians create a scene of suspense and anxiety. Precisely on this location will appear the gate for which initial digging is in progress.

The ‘aesthetically suitable idea’ by the LDA planners, as reported, will dent the public kitty. If the LDA had to show its performance, the gate could have been constructed few kilometres further down the Multan road to welcome travellers entering the provincial capital.

A phrase ‘Lahore is Punjab’ is somewhat sarcastically quoted in far-flung districts like Dera Ghazi Khan across the mighty Indus. Seraiki-speaking people think that the Punjab government considers Lahore the whole of Punjab and expends maximum development funds in the provincial capital, though garishly if the gate near the NAB office is any indicator.

Some of the grouse the Seraiki people had against the Punjab government for lack of development there has been dispelled after construction of dual carriage lanes from Multan to DGK, bypassing Muzaffargarh. Travel on the Lahore-Multan motorway and further on dual carriages now takes four hours and a quarter to reach DGK from Lahore, a journey that previously took seven hours and more. The previous Punjab government deserves to be commended for it. As it is, development projects remain etched in public memory, including the names of those who initiated them. Development takes unbounded zeal that SS ‘the mad developer’ heading the last Punjab government possessed. Will CM Usman Buzdar follow him in public interest?

The Punjab government would do well by planning development schemes in under-developed areas. It will not only help alleviate the sense of deprivation of the people living in those areas but will also prevent them from moving to larger cities and overcrowd them. Had the past governments concentrated on developing rural areas by establishing hospitals, schools and colleges, and providing other civic amenities, the exodus to big cities could have been discouraged. Neither would there have arisen the need to allow construction of high-rise buildings in major cities thus turning them into concrete jungles.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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