Unplanned urbanisation and commercialisation, coupled with traffic problems, has turned Lahore into a hot mess
espite the expenditure of billions of rupees on infrastructure development during the recent years, the provincial metropolis is still breathing heavily under the burden of urban problems.
The main problems of the provincial capital include traffic and parking issues and unplanned urbanisation and commercialisation.
Its citizens also face environmental issues like smog, air pollution and water contamination. Even the recent trend of converting major city roads into signal-free corridors and providing elevated U-turns has failed to cope with the traffic needs, leaving citizens trapped on traffic clogged roads during peak hours at various intersections.
Long-duration traffic jams have become a regular feature on almost every road. This speaks volumes about the incompetence of town planners and road traffic engineers.
The situation is worst on high-traffic volume roads such as Circular Road, Jail Road, Ferozepur Road, Canal Bank Road, The Mall, Multan Road, the Allama Iqbal Town main boulevard, Wahdat Road, Hall Road, Shalimar Link Road and Allama Iqbal Road (near Garhi Shahu). Traffic remains a mess even at the recently redesigned Allah Hoo Chowk in Johar Town and the Jinnah Hospital Road.
Due to a lack of an effective public transportation facility, the citizens are forced to use their cars and motorbikes. This has increased the frequency of road accidents, street robberies and thefts and parking issues. This also contributes to increased air and noise pollution in the provincial capital.
Unplanned commercialisation has also resulted in several issues. The problems are reflected in the level of control city’s town planners have over the enforcement of building and zoning rules and regulations.
One can witness deserted bus stops along various roads on which the government had once spent millions of rupees. But there are no buses. Many of these bus stops are now occupied by road side vendors and drug addicts.
Besides ill-planned exits and U-turns, there are several other factors that contribute to traffic jams. These include wrong stops by motorcycles and rickshaws on public roads, presence of beggars, out-of-order traffic signals, similar timings for offices and educational institutions, massive encroachments, violations of traffic rules and presence of food spots on road sides.
Recently, the remodelled Thokar Niaz Baig chowk has become a spot where one can find motorcycle rickshaws parked everywhere, stalls of used clothes and temporary encroachments by cart vendors. Similar situations can be witnessed at Azadi Chowk, Data Darbar, Lorry Adda, Bund Road, Ichhra, near General Hospital, Hall Road Chowk, Anarkali, Secretariat and Aiwan-i-Adal, Shalimar Link Road, Model Town Link Road, Akbar Chowk and Scheme Mor.
Illegal parking of private cars in front of buildings and commercial plazas has also become a permanent problem in the provincial metropolis. Some two years back, city planners installed a number of rotatory parking facilities in the city. Almost all of them are now out of order and non-functional.
The city is also witnessing a mushrooming of illegal housing schemes that are rapidly squeezing the green areas of the provincial metropolis. One can also witness under-construction housing schemes along Multan and Sialkot motorways, the areas that have been Lahore’s breadbasket.
Many experts believe that the government should immediately pronounce a ban on the construction of new housing schemes in Lahore division. They suggest that the government should provide parking facilities in the city, or at the very least, ensure that some major roads like The Mall, Hall Road, Temple Road, Neela Gumbad, Anarkali and adjoining areas are vehicle free.
Civic experts also suggest that government departments should introduce bus services for their employees. They say this will reduce traffic load on many roads and encourage citizens to use public transport.
Recently, the government constructed an overhead bridge at Shakam Chowk near Bahria Town and another Sheranwala Gate near Lorry Adda. The government is also planning to construct an elevated expressway from Gulberg to Bund Road, an underpass and an overhead bridge at Akbar Chowk and an underpass at Gulshan-i-Ravi T junction, to ease traffic problems.
The government has also directed the LDA to prepare a master plan for Lahore division that addresses the issues of illegal commercialisation and unplanned urbanisation.
The WASA is working on providing clean drinking water to citizens, construction of underground rainwater reservoirs to cope with urban flooding, wastewater treatment plants and a surface water treatment plant in the provincial metropolis. These projects are meant to halt the depletion of groundwater and save the aquatic life in River Ravi.
The writer is a reporter for The News in Lahore