New city plan raises many a question
Efforts have been stepped up by the Buzdar-led Punjab government to set up a city on Ravi River covering an area of more than 100,000 acres in the north of Lahore, with an investment of Rs five trillion coming from the private sector.
The project came under discussion at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Lahore on Sunday.
This will probably be one of the most important projects to be undertaken by the present government.
The project will be completed in three phases, work on phase one to start during the current year.
However, questions have cropped up about the rationale of the initiative:
Whether there is really a need for a new city so close to Lahore, which has a bulging population?
Will the new city help solve multiple problems being faced by Lahore or add to them?
Will the establishment of a new city not amount to defeating the policy of discouraging urban migration?
Is it advisable to set up countless housing projects turning a blind eye to the land needed to meet the food requirements of the future generations?
Is there really a need for a new authority (Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project) to deal with matters concerning new city when the territorial jurisdiction of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) had been extended to entire Lahore division in 2013, consisting of Lahore, Sheikhupura, Kasur and Nankana Sahib districts?
Experience shows that we don’t have sustainable policies for any sector. Any party that comes to power prefers to take its own decisions, ignoring the policies of its predecessors, no matter how rational, logical and beneficial.
No long ago, there was realization among rulers that rural areas should be provided with maximum facilities to discourage residents thereof to migrate to cities. This was the best approach to control unbridled expansion of cities.
But the decision to establish a new city near Lahore contradicts that policy. Now the government would have to encourage people from everywhere to buy residences in the new city.
As the successive governments have failed to improve conditions in rural areas, people with resources prefer to shift to cities.
If a survey is carried out today, it would establish that all cities are expanding with the passage of time.
An important point which is not being given due importance by successive governments is that if more and more lands are encroached upon for housing purposes, a day may come when the country would not have enough lands for agricultural purposes, as a result of which it would have to import food items.
Already, the country is importing 700,000 tons of wheat this year in addition to over eight million tons target set for procurement from local sources. The country doesn’t have enough resources to import food items.
The government would be appreciated if instead of setting up new cities, it goes for vertical expansion of buildings in cities to accommodate more people.
It would be a wise decision if some area limit is set on the biggest buildings to save more lands for agricultural purposes.
Although this would be a new approach in this country, this is the requirement of the future.
As for the justification for the establishment of a new authority to regulate the matters of the new city, people aware of the working of the LDA say that it’s beyond the capacity of the LDA to shoulder any more responsibilities. Explaining the point, they say that the territorial jurisdiction of LDA had been expanded in 2013, but it could not launch a single project in new districts added to its area of command.
The new city to be set up near Lahore will have 14 zones, including residential, commercial, mixed-use zones, a medical city, a forest reserve and a central business district.