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February 14, 2020

Greenbelt issue in Peshawar: Pakistan Railways, PDA continue to accuse each other of wrong-doing

Peshawar

February 14, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Railways and the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) have continued to blame each other for the dispute that led to the recent destruction of the greenbelt by the former.

The greenbelt in the University Town had been developed by the PDA. The Railways officials claimed the PDA started a campaign against it following the dispute between the two government institutions over the greenbelt issue. An official of the Pakistan Railways on the condition of anonymity told The News that Pakistan Railways had decided to allow other government departments for developing greenbelt over its property that was currently not in use.

“We held meetings with PDA officials and verbally expressed willingness to allow it to establish the greenbelt,” the official said. He alleged that the PDA did not bother to wait for signing of the agreement and instead started work on the property. “We would not have allowed them to establish concrete structures and that is why they started the work before signing of the agreement,” the official argued.

He maintained that PDA even erected a horizontal line on the track, adding. Railways took pictures of the encroachments before demolition. “We only destroyed the concrete structures and did not damage any plant or greenbelt,” he insisted. “This was land-grabbing as the PDA established not only the greenbelt but also concrete structures which had not been permitted. PDA did not secure the NOC or sign the agreement. The Pakistan Railways had some agreements with PDA and would do so again in future in public interest but only after following legal procedure,” he maintained.

The official lamented that despite doing illegal activity PDA continued to engage in a campaign against Railways. The PDA had accused the Pakistan Railways authorities of destroying the greenbelt and the structures in the University Town. It claimed to have spent Rs21 million on the greenbelt from the University Town up to the emergency gate of the Khyber Teaching Hospital while the total cost of the project from Karkhano Market to Peshawar Cantonment was Rs38 million.

Zafar Ali Shah, PDA’s acting Director General, said that the provincial government would take up the issue with the federal government. “We have a written request from Railways asking for development of greenbelt from Karkhano Market up to Peshawar Cantonment to prevent its misuse,” he said. A high level meeting had permitted the PDA to undertake the development work, he said, adding, after authorization the PC-I was done and tender was issued.

“After this process the work on site was initiated. They should have conveyed their reservation when the work started. The most important aspect was that it was a government department and nobody had encroached upon the Railways land. They should have contacted the provincial government through proper channel and sought clarification from PDA,” Zafar Ali Shah argued. “We spent the taxpayers’ money just for the benefit of the people and to improve the environment of the area,” he said.

“The Railways used the government force to destroy the government property,” he pointed out. “We have demolished the old grill and installed new one. We have not changed the earlier look of the area. The old grill was replaced with new one,” he added. He argued the only change was establishment of greenbelt.

“They don’t have any justification to defend themselves.” The PDA chief said that Pakistan Railways even leased out a portion of the now destroyed greenbelt to a contractor for car parking for an adjacent private hospital.