What price the investment?

May 15, 2016

Through ‘Investment Guide Lahore,’ LDA is hoping to attract foreign investors to a host of projects it has chalked out at some of the most important cultural and heritage sites. For urban planners, the idea isn’t welcome

What price the investment?

The Lahore Development Authority (LDA) seems hell-bent to change the landscape of the provincial capital, by replacing old, historical buildings and sites with modern structures.

Towards this end, the Authority has already prepared ‘Investment Guide Lahore,’ a booklet which shall be updated every year and presented to potential foreign investors.

As per the guide, Lahore’s population, which currently stands at 10 million, is growing annually at the rate of 3 per cent. This fact, together with the city’s geographic position, makes it an "excellent investment destination."

The guide also pompously states that the city’s security situation is better than any other metropolis of the country. Therefore, Lahore ought to be considered "a safe haven for investing their capital."

The projects, outlined by LDA in the guide, have been classified as either infrastructural or related to the real estate. The notable ones include a five-star hotel and a convention centre at the Camp Jail site, a "high-end, state-of-the-art shopping mall" in lieu of the 1122 building on Ferozepur Road; developing Walton Airport into a "Central Business District" which shall include residential and commercial areas; and a multi-storey office apartment complex at the old P&D building adjacent to NCA.

The LDA also seeks to find investment capital for what it calls "Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project," LDA Towers on Jail Road, luxury apartments and a health tower at Johar Town’s Finance & Trade Center (FTC), an amusement park at FTC, a commercial center at FTC, and a residential complex at the Building and Research Center on Canal Road.

The government seems to have overlooked the historical importance of Camp Jail on Ferozepur Road which is likely to be moved to Rakh Chabeel on GT Road. Though, no final word on this has been given by the LDA. Besides, there is no infrastructure available to carry out the task, as of now.

Renowned architect Nayyar Ali Dada says that no efforts are being made to preserve the original city of Lahore. "We are constructing highways, signal-free roads and overheads at the cost of our heritage."

The proposed five-star and convention centre project is supposed to cost US $105 million.

As for the Ravi Riverfront project, which shall be spread over 44,817 acres of land, is said to become the face of the contemporary Lahore, allowing the city to grow unhindered along the River Ravi. That’s how the ‘Investment Guide Lahore’ sees it.

Ali Raza 1

The project shall be divided into 14 zones, each hosting a different function ranging from commercial, residential and mixed-use areas to a central business district and medical city.

The rehabilitation of the Ravi will be the project’s main thrust. This shall require river channeling and investment in waste water treatment plants which, again, is no mean task.

Proximity to an international airport and the presence of a medical city are cited as factors that shall push the project into limelight.

Not many urban planners and architects seem to agree with the way ‘Investment Guide Lahore’ has outlined the projects.

Talking to TNS, renowned architect Nayyar Ali Dada says that no efforts are being made to preserve the original city of Lahore. "We are constructing highways, signal-free roads, underpasses and overheads at the cost of our heritage and culture."

In its defence, an LDA spokesman insists that the projects mentioned in the guide are right now at the planning stage. "Nothing has been finalised yet.

"Development is the need of the time," he declares. "But we must go vertical and not horizontal."

What price the investment?