A road, otherwise!

August 16, 2015

Lahore is witness to excessive urbanisation, massive road structures, often built at the cost of environment, and an alarming vehicular density

A road, otherwise!

Lahore looks likely to transform into a concrete jungle, given the kind of massive development and infrastructural projects underway in different parts of the city. Add to it excessive urbanisation, a cobweb of roads and an alarming vehicular density. The proposed Shami Road extension plan is the latest in the lineup.

According to reports, the said road shall host two underpasses besides being widened. God know, it will only contribute to the myriad flyovers and road structures popping up everywhere in the provincial metropolis.

Lahore has already got more than 40 flyovers and underpasses. Several others, including the (proposed) Hussain Chowk flyover and Defence Road flyover are in the pipeline. Ecology and biodiversity be damned.

Meanwhile, road expansion projects run amok under the pretext of easing out traffic flow at all existing network of arteries in the city. "Frenzy road infrastructure development and rampant urbanisation were most perilous factors that plagued the Karachi ecosystem and claimed lives of hundreds of people this year," urban planner Khurshid Aalam says. "Lahore is blindly following suit and is likely to meet a similar fate.

"We do not oppose development works; of course, they are needed for progress. But the problem surfaces when the balance between human need and human greed is tilted in favour of the other."

An estimated sum of Rs2.7 billion has been dedicated to the Shami Road project. The road is to be widened from the existing 44 feet to 100 ft. It will be dual carriageway with three lanes. The proposed stretch to be broadened is approximately 2.5 kilometres long. The underpasses shall be built at Abid Majeed Chowk and IJ Chowk in Lahore Cantonment.

It may be recalled that a flyover was already planned for Shami Road that would provide an alternative route to the Lahore Airport, at the cost of Rs900 million, in 2009, but the project was scrapped.

The utility of the plan is to act as conduit for signal-free corridor which recently got a new lease of life after the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a thumbs-up to the mega project. It shall provide a swift access to the airport to all traffic coming from the Mall Rd, Defence Rd and Jail Rd, and will enter into cantonment jurisdiction.

The road owned by the Punjab government passes through the Cantonment area. GHQ headquarter is on board regarding this project.

Lahore Cantonment Board (LCB) Chief Engineer Zia Ahmed Khan says that the Shami Road receives a traffic volume of around 0.15 million per day. "The project is the need of the hour and shall cater to the big volume of traffic.

"After the Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA) was awarded the contract, all surveys and EIA report from Environment department are to be taken, and utilities including electricity polls, signals, sewerage pipes, water supply lines installed. Only then shall we spring into action."

The LCB boasts more than 25 roads and Shami holds a strategic importance as it connects with other prominent roads and spots of the city, such as Fortress Stadium where very often the visitors’ flow shoots up to 0.5 million on weekends.

A senior TEPA official Mazhar Husain claims that the work on the project shall commence in less than three months. "We are to apply for the EIA report soon besides streamlining other relevant documents. The widening of the road and the building of underpasses will perk up the flow of traffic."

It is sad that road development works have to eat up thousands of trees. Akhtar H Awan, President, Ecogreen Society-Pakistan, says his heart bleeds for Lahore which is losing its original grace and shape. "I never see any concerned department monitoring as to how many trees have been axed so far and how many new trees planted in their place."

Other than Shami Rd and the signal-free corridor projects, around Rs10 billion are said to be doled out by the Punjab government for the Orange Line Metro Train Project. Meanwhile, a total of Rs5.15 billion has been allocated for new projects in the provincial metropolis.

A road, otherwise!