By Afnan Khan
LAHORE: The district government has failed to launch a programme to build the infrastructure of the city on a union council basis, despite announcing its date thrice.
The programme, titled ‘Lahore Sudharo’, was designed to build infrastructure and solve the problems faced by people living in every union council of the city. The Punjab government, which wanted to run the pilot project of the programme in Lahore and then to expand it to other districts, proposed the initiative in 2008. The Lahore district coordination officer (DCO) was given the task to make the programme a success, as he was leading the team supposed to design and implement the project.
All the district and provincial-level departments were supposed to be part of the project and the DCO was supposed to take multiple teams of different departments to a selected union council and solve the problems faced by the residents there. All the departments concerned, including the Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA), Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA), Lahore Electric Supply Corporation (LESCO), Solid Waste Management (SWM), Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) and the Town Municipal Administration (TMA) were set to join the revolutionary idea.
The district government had to map the whole city at the union council level in order to chalk out a feasibility regarding various kinds of problems confronting citizens. The agencies were supposed to build new roads and repair the broken ones, ensure the supply of clean drinking water to residents, solve drainage problems such as mixing of waste material with drinking water, stopping the overflowing manholes and installing proper covers on them, to provide uninterrupted supply of electricity to residents, install streetlights, remove encroachments from roads and to recover illegally-occupied public land besides offering services the government was supposed to provide to the citizens. The move would have made Lahore an ideal place and helped reduce the difference between classes, by providing equal facilities to the public.
The district government had earlier announced that the mapping had been completed and the programme was set to be launched on August 25, 2008. Later, they set January 12, 2009 as the second deadline after failing to begin the programme on the first deadline. This date also passed silently and the DCO announced to launch the project in the third week of January. However, the project remains shelved.
Reasons: The district government officials believe the programme could not be launched due to a number of problems in it, including a major grievance shown by the members of provincial and national assemblies after finding the local government system had deprived them of their powers. Lack of funds to carry out multiple operations in union councils on a massive level also resulted in the delay, they said. They believe that the launching of the programme was uncertain due to these reasons, keeping in mind that the government has neither announced a final date for the programme, nor has issued a notice about scrapping the whole idea.
Other projects: Lahore DCO Sajjad Ahmad Bhutta was not available for comment, but the chief minister’s Principal Staff Officer (PSO) Khawaja Imran Raza told Daily Times that the provincial government had already been carrying out a number of developmental projects in Lahore parallel to the city district government and the TMAs. He said the ‘Lahore Sudharo’ programme concerned to the DCO, but he was already leading a team formed by CM Shahbaz Sharif, which was focusing on the development of smaller roads along with the major projects including the three main roads linking Johar Town to the city, Harbanspura development project and many others.
He said the team had also been providing micro-level facilities to the citizens and they had already removed heaps of garbage and stagnant water from urban areas, provided street lights to 80 percent of the city and removed more than 80 percent of cattle, including buffaloes, from the city.
Raza also mentioned that his team had been spending billions of rupees on all the projects and they were finding out a long-term solution to control water drainage during the monsoon season. He said the initiatives were benefiting the people at the grassroots level. He said all the development teams formed by the Punjab CM had been working on an independent basis, and the CM had given them a free hand to work for the betterment of citizens without taking any political pressure or giving favours.