Just how practicable is the much-touted elevated expressway project for the city?
Recently, Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi approved the Lahore Elevated Expressway Project that was originally planned in 2017 by the then PML-N government of Mian Shahbaz Sharif. Given the political uncertainty in the province that has already had two governments (Sardar Usman Buzdar’s and Hamza Shehbaz’s) change within a matter of a few months, it would be interesting to see if the current government will be able to witness the completion of the project.
The cost of the project was initially estimated at around Rs 25 billion. It is being revised and currently stands at Rs 85 billion. Repeated delays in development work have increased the cost manifold. It rose to Rs 50 billion when Usman Buzdar came into power. His exit left the project hanging in the balance. Nothing was done during Hamza Shahbaz Sharif’s brief tenure as CM. It has now fallen to the Parvez Elahi-led government.
Some may argue that the project is simply not needed, or that it could lead to massive displacement of people and loss of businesses; even be an environmental disaster. However, if you think objectively, you will realize that the project has the potential to be a game changer in terms of bringing ease to traffic in the city which remains the biggest issue in the provincial metropolis.
The project involves constructing a Gulberg-M2 Elevated Corridor, a massive 10.77-kilometre freeway. According to some estimates, the project will enable approximately 80,000 motors to travel uninterrupted every day. It is supposed to cut the travel time and distance, giving commuters easy access to entry and exit points from and into the city.
The elevated expressway will start at Main Boulevard, Gulberg, and follow the existing route of the Cantonment drain, running parallel to Jail Road. An entry and an exit ramp from and to Zafar Ali Road have also been proposed.
The cost of the project was initially estimated at around Rs 25 billion. It is being revised and currently stands at Rs 85 billion. Repeated delays in development work have increased the cost manifold.
Talking to TNS, Lahore Development Authority Director General Aamir Ahmed Khan said the authority had been “endeavouring to make the provincial metropolis a fully developed and prosperous city. In this regard, the LDA has initiated a number of development schemes.”
According to him, despite the construction of the motorway to shorten the distance between Lahore and Islamabad, commuters’ time is still wasted in just crossing the city to arrive at the toll plaza. The elevated expressway will solve this problem.
Khan said that the elevated expressway had been designed in such a way that it would pass by the congested areas in localities like Main Boulevard, Gulberg; Jail Road; Canal Road; Ferozepur Road; Multan Road and Bund Road.
In response to a query, he said that concerns had been raised by certain quarters about the environmental impact of the project, which had been “adequately addressed.” He referred to a plan by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) to transplant all trees uprooted along the way.
Asad Butt, an environmental lawyer, opined that the project identification process was not up to the mark. That’s why, “duplication or overlapping of projects often takes place at the planning stage. Of course, this has happened in this case too.”
He feared that the entire structure of the signal-free corridor would be built over the drain. He said the polluted water could produce highly corrosive vapours that would affect the strength of the structure.
The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at email@example.com