An elevated expressway, which is supposed to connect Main Boulevard, Gulberg, with M2, has the civil society and the environmentalists coming down hard on the Punjab government
The civil society is again at loggerheads with the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), this time with regard to an elevated expressway, a mega project recently announced by the Buzdar government.
Reportedly, the Punjab government has approved the construction of an elevated corridor from Main Boulevard, Gulberg, to Motorway (M2). The idea is to keep the traffic flow going without interruption. The approval was got at the 76th meeting of the Cabinet’s Standing Committee on Finance and Development at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, which was presided over by the Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht.
The meeting directed the Finance Department, Planning and Development and the LDA to come up with a financial plan with time-frame for the construction of the said expressway so that work on the project could be started.
It may be mentioned that the project was first announced during Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure as the Punjab chief minister, but the civil society went to the Lahore High Court and got a stay order against it.
The civil society’s main grouse has been that the project entails massive land acquisition in densely populated localities like Gulberg, Chauburj, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Samanabad and adjoining areas. They also fear that a large number of trees will be felled in order to make way for the corridor.
The environmentalists have raised another point regarding a high-voltage transmission line which will need to be blocked out, thus affecting those based in surrounding areas. Talking to TNS, Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam, a noted environmentalist, says, “[Blocking the transmission line] could have dangerous consequence for the residents due to its electro-magnetic properties which may cause cancer and other dangerous ailments.”
The project was announced during Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure as Punjab chief minister, but the civil society went to the Lahore High Court and got a stay order against it… The environmentalists have raised another point regarding a high-voltage transmission line that will need to be blocked out, thus affecting those based in surrounding areas.
In 2016, a public hearing for the EIA of the mega project was carried out after which the LDA started acquiring land. In 2018, the LDA began construction and the following year Justice Ayesha Malik issued a stay order against the project.
Recently, when the Buzdar government asked the LDA to redesign the project, Alam went back to the LHC where his writ petition was already pending, but the court disposed of his application saying that the LDA chief engineer, Israr Saeed, had appeared before the court on December 3, 2021, and told the court that no construction work was being carried out at the site.
Alam claims that the EIA’s study of the project, which was carried out in 2016, expired in 2019 and now the LDA has to carry out a fresh study.
On the other hand, the LDA chief engineer says that the elevated expressway will prove a game changer as it will connect Gulberg, which is the centre of Lahore, with M2.
He says that the project will help reduce the load on Ferozpur Road, Multan Road, Queens Road, The Mall, Jail Road and some other major traffic arteries of Lahore. “Besides, it will save time for the commuters and reduce air pollution levels,” he adds.
According to Saeed, slow-moving traffic, traffic congestion and jams are major contributors to the smog, and the said project will serve to mitigate it significantly.
Replying to a query about the expiration of the EIA study, the relocation of high-voltage transmission line, land acquisition and other points raised by the civil society, Saeed says that the LDA will follow all rules and regulations with regard to the construction of the elevated expressway.
The writer is a city reporter at The News, Lahore