Tag Archives: LDA

Saving Lahore…uphill task

A bunch of starry-eyed do-gooders, under the banner of the Lahore Bachao Tehreek, are trying to raise their voice against the further expansion of the Canal Road. Over the years, and under the tender ministrations of chief ministers who for the mischief they have caused in the name of development deserve a spell in some Stalinist re-education centre, the Canal road has been double-widened, then triple-widened and tunnelled under.

Trees have been cut – Pakistani officialdom and Pakistanis generally nursing some kind of a primeval grudge against trees…if they see one standing honour is not satisfied unless it is pulled down – and an iron railing has been put up, of no use whatsoever and on the wrong side of the footpath. The visionary behind this planning deserves a prize.

Yet Punjab officialdom, and for that matter the far-seeing administration of the Khadim-e-Aala – they no longer even smile when this title is used, such being the prevalent sense of humour – are resolved to vandalise the Canal thoroughfare further. They want to ‘improve’ the underpasses and create some U-turns, as if U-turning was not already a national art. If memory serves, a sum of over eight billion rupees is set aside in this year’s provincial budget for this purpose.
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Lahore: “Land shouldn’t be used for speculation”

 – Irfan Ali, Director General, Lahore Development Authority in terviewed by By Saadia Salahuddin & Aoun Sahi of the NEWS

The new DG LDA has taken a series of actions in the last one month. One was ordering land audit of 116 housing schemes in the district. Another was placing a number of ads in daily newspapers to apprise the public of the frauds and irregularities where they exist, in the different housing schemes. This was to warn people to check with LDA whether the plot exists or not, before purchasing land. This led The News on Sunday to interview him and find out what was happening in the realm of real estate.

 These housing societies or schemes are still doing business despite having earned a reputation (of committing fraud). TNS asked the DG what the LDA was doing about it.

At this DG LDA Irfan Ali said, “LDA’s actions are geared towards ensuring the welfare of prospective buyers. We have all the maps of schemes that we have approved. The people can check with us. Our role is to regulate the private sector which has a major role in land development, so we do not want to discourage them. LDA points out irregularities and the private housing schemes should address the problems themselves.” Continue reading

Lahore: Return the GOR Park

By Ahmad Rafay Alam

Several formalities need to be completed before Shabaz Sharif can once again assume the administration of this province. But this hasn’t deterred the former chief minister from letting all and sundry know that he’s back in town and that he means business. What this also means is that the previous government’s grip over the administration of the Punjab— a vice like noose that wound its way from halls of the secretariat, through every police station in the province and into the vaulted halls of the Lahore High Court— is slowly but surely loosening.

During the past few years few, if any, have uttered a word about the fate of the small triangular park that stood in the heart of Lahore’s leafy GOR-I residential district. Turning into the GOR at the intersection of the Mall and Davis Road, it stood outside the chief minister’s official residence and office. At some point this once round-a-bout was converted into a triangular “green” island. Then, to ward off the children, loiterers and die-hard cricketers a fountain was added to the middle of the island (It didn’t work: the marbled floor around the triangular fountain not only provided an year-round pitch, it gave local cricket enthusiasts three pitches instead of one.)

Regardless of whether or not any of these measures worked from keeping the great unwashed out of the line of vision of the high and mighty, the point is that this little bit of green in the middle of GOR— in front of the provincial chief executive’s nerve centre no less— was a park open to the public as a utility area. And even when over zealous policemen keeping watch at the CM’s office managed to chase away the children, loiterers and die-hard cricketers, the little island was another little example of the beauty tucked away in GOR. Continue reading

Facing the urban challenges ahead

Ahmad Rafay Alam

A few newspaper reports from last week, taken from various publications, when read carefully, reveal the challenges the new government of Punjab will face when it assumes charge and comes face to face with the challenges urban planning before it.

The first is a report that an open drain in DHA Lahore is causing health problems to nearby residents. Originally planned to channel storm water, this drains is now, like the 16 odd other open drains in the city, a floating cesspool of raw and untreated sewerage. The drain that passes through the DHA, like all the other open drains in Lahore, easily offends and can overwhelm even the heartiest of men. Not only that, since the noxious and toxic gases emitted by decomposing waste are well known corrosives, the newspaper report reveals that the open drain is a constant source of attrition on any metal kept outdoors. No air conditioner or, worse, generator, is safe!

But the olfactory displeasures of the well ensconced rich are not the only point to note. The writer of the newspaper report quite dutifully interviewed all the usual suspects. He spoke to residents of the area, the secretary of the Punjab Environmental Protection department, the managing director of the Water and Sanitation Agency, the district officer of the Solid Waste Management, Lahore, the secretary of the Defence Housing Authority and even a doctor at Mayo Hospital. Continue reading

Pawning the family jewels – in Lahore

Ahmad Rafay Alam

Rent-seeking is destroying our cities. I know that’s a strong statement, but it’s more than deserved. Let me explain.

The phrase “rent-seeking” is an economic term originally identified in connection with monopolies. It has now grown to provide a better understanding of government regulation and, more sinister, abuse of power and privilege. It doesn’t really have much to do with leases, which is where you hear the word rent thrown about quite a bit. It actually stems from Adam Smith’s tripartite division of income, namely profit obtained from investment, wages earned through labour or rent earned through the lease of an asset. Rent-seeking is the practice of making income without the risks (and rewards) normally associated with investment or the toil and effort normally associated with labour. It represents money made without the rent-seeker actually making a real contribution to the productivity of the economy.

Another way to identify the practice of rent-seeking is to examine incidents of when a third part interferes in the availability of an otherwise accessible transaction. In a more obvious context, take the billboards in our cities. Anyone who wants to put a billboard up has to get the approval of the local government authority that regulates the advertising we see in our cities. In Lahore, it is the Parks and Horticulture Authority. The PHA, thus, interferes with the free availability of advertising space in the city and the income it makes from regulating permission to erect billboards is income in the form of rent-seeking. Last year, the PHA netted some Rs350 million in “revenue” collected from the regulation of billboard advertising. Continue reading

Skewed urban development agenda

by Ahmad Rafay Alam (from the NEWS)

The priority given to different urban development projects strikes me as odd. Given the extensive road development work seen in Lahore during the tenure of the previous provincial government, it would appear that inner-city mobility was considered key to the city’s future. The billions in foreign development assistance spent upgrading transport infrastructure stands in stark contrast to the opinion, expressed by many a citizen and almost every elected local government official, that the most pressing issue facing the city of Lahore today is solid-waste management. And yet, at the same time, the amounts spent on upgrading the sewerage system of the city pale in comparison to those spent to accommodate private automobile owners.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the urban development people want to see and the urban development they get? A look at the institutions that are responsible for the urban planning and development of the city and the financial and administrative control they wield offers an answer to this very perplexing question. Continue reading