Category Archives: LDA

The long road to ecological justice

We are posting this article by Ahmad Rafay Alam originally published in daily Dawn. In this article, Alam critically evaluates judicial proceedings with respect to the Lahore Canal Road project. The writer urges the government not to squander the heritage of the city for the “.. Canal Heritage Park is part of the Lahori psyche, as much as the Walled City, the Shalimar Gardens or halva puri. Civil Society must understand that as long as the city grows, pressures to sacrifice our heritage must be forever guarded against. The battle is and will remain ongoing…”  

LahoreCANALBefore parting with this judgment, we would like to acknowledge the admirable spirit demonstrated by petitioners’ organization, by those individuals, architects, urban planners, academics and students for protection of city’s ecological and environmental horizons. During hearing of this case, the Court was touched by the rainbow of idealism, of intellect, of architectural ability, of urban development and mental health expertise of graces and youthful exuberance… As long as this spirit is alive, we are sanguine, the authorities and the leadership would continue to be guided by the values of sustainable human and urban development.

— Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, in SMC No. 25 of 2009

Following the September 2011 decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Lahore Canal Road widening case (SMC No. 25 of 2009), the Government of Punjab wasted no time in cutting down trees to widen the road along the green belt for a stretch of the Lahore Canal. Many could be forgiven in thinking there was little other in the judgment of the Court, but they would be wrong. The widening of a limited stretch of road along the Lahore Canal was only one of 10 directions the Court had given. The first was that the entire length of the Lahore Canal and its green belt “shall be treated as a Heritage Urban Park forthwith and declared so by an Act to be passed by the Assembly…”The Punjab Assembly’s Standing Committee on Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering held hearings in December 2012 where representatives of the Lahore Conservation Society, Lahore Bachao Tehreek and WWF-Pakistan provided input to the draft legislation prepared by the Government of Punjab. Although the law was being prepared in pursuance of the Court’s judgment, there were reservations against the draft, which allowed the Government of Punjab carte blanche, especially on the controversial issue of more infrastructure development along the Canal. Despite these reservations, the Lahore Canal Heritage Park Act, 2013 was passed on 14 January 2013, making it the first urban and heritage park legislation in Pakistan (other parks are protected by notification). It is also a major success for civil society in Lahore and Pakistan. How often can a civil society movement anywhere lay claim to have traversed the full spectrum of activism: from protest and advocacy to legislation and policy?

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The preamble to the Act provides “Whereas the Lahore canal and the green belts on both sides of the canal is a public trust and is part of the heritage of the city of Lahore; therefore, it is expedient to make provisions for the maintenance of a salubrious environment and conservation of the Lahore Canal as a heritage park; to preserve the flora and fauna of this heritage park; and to provide for ancillary matters.” The maintenance of the Heritage Park has been made the responsibility of the Parks and Horticulture Authority and an Advisory Committee established to advise the PHA on upkeep and maintenance.

The Act prohibits the construction on infrastructure, felling or damage of or to trees, pollution of water, hunting and use of firearms in the Heritage Park, but allows the PHA to give permission to any of these prohibited acts provided a list of criterion are met.

The Advisory Committee comprises nominees of government departments and civil society. The membership of the Advisory Committee was designed to ensure continuing civil society participation in decisions that would affect the Lahore Canal. However, by allowing the PHA the power to override the decisions of the Advisory Committee, the Act fails to properly value this participation.

The Advisory Committee has so far met thrice and has proposed rules of procedure for itself, has directed the delineation of the boundaries of the Heritage Park and is planning a tree master plan for the park. Once its rules of procedure are set, the Advisory Committee will be in a position to undertake initiatives in the Heritage Park.

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What has been surprising was the request, recently made at the 3rd meeting of the Advisory Committee, to consider a proposal for additional road-widening and three U-turns along the Canal. The Committee was told such an initiative would improve traffic congestion. However, I have my doubts. If the road widening of last year now requires another Rs. 400 million of infrastructure to “reduce traffic congestion” and Lahore still does not have a traffic or urban Master Plan, then there is grave risk that an ad-hoc initiative will be at the cost of legally protected heritage.

Civil Society must understand that the growth and development of Lahore will forever remain ongoing. What is important is that we give back to the city something that our children and their children can hold as heritage. The Canal Heritage Park is part of the Lahori psyche, as much as the Walled City, the Shalimar Gardens or halva puri. Civil Society must understand that as long as the city grows, pressures to sacrifice our heritage must be forever guarded against. The battle is and will remain ongoing.

The writer is a partner at Saleem, Alam & Company, and member of the Lahore Canal Heritage Park Committee

Chief Justice takes suo motu notice of Canal Road widening; orders no trees be cut

From Dawn, 28 November 2009

LAHORE, Nov 27: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Friday took suo motu notice against proposed chopping of trees in the provincial metropolis to widen Canal Road.

Chief Justice Chaudhry directed the authorities concerned to put their plans of cutting the trees on hold and summoned the chief secretary and the environment secretary on Dec 1 at Court House in Islamabad.

The chief justice took notice on applications moved by two NGOs namely the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan (CCP) and the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT), seeking a restraining order against proposed cutting of trees to widen Canal Road.

Earlier, Dawn reported in its Nov 26 edition that environmentalists, conservationists and civil society activists had sought help of the CJP to save hundreds of trees likely to be felled during Eid holidays to pave the way for widening of Canal Road. Through an application to the CJP, they had said the Punjab government was planning to widen Canal Road from Thokar Niaz Beg to Dharampura underpass at a hefty cost of Rs3.15 billion, without fulfilling its obligations under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, and the chief minister had announced that work on the project should be started.
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Lahore now the most polluted city in Pakistan?

Road PollutionSo much for “development”, so much for the overpasses, the underpasses, the Foodstreets, Jashn-e-Baharan, the Lahore Road, Rehabilitation Project, all of the PHA’s many “efforts”, beautification and so on.  So much for it.  Lahore is now the most polluted city in Pakistan.  Surely someone should accept the fact that the medicine is killing the patient.

The newspaper article below is also an indictment of the thoughtless commercialization policies that have fuelled commercial and industrial activity within the city and, often, even in quiet residential areas.  It’s an indictment of how inequitable our cities are becoming; and how anti-public space and anti-people they have become.  Arif Hasan has called Karachi an “unethically planned city.” Given the short-sighted pursuit we give to the notion of a “World Class City”, I think Lahore is fast earning the same moniker.

Industrialisation, mounting pollution threaten Lahore

Thursday, September 24, 2009
By Ali Raza (The News http://tiny.cc/hQxLT)

LAHORE: Rapidly increasing industrialization and commercialisation has turned the provincial metropolis — once known as the City of Gardens — into one of the most polluted cities in the country.

Even residential localities are not safe from increasing trends of commercialization and industrialization because many industrial zones, which were established some years ago outside the city, are now situated right in middle of the City.

Light and heavy industrial units have been established in various city localities i.e. Misri Shah, Baghbanpura, Mughalpura, Daroghewala, Bhagat Pura, Chah Miran, Shadbagh and other localities along the Bund Road and GT Road. These industries include steel foundries, steel re-rolling mills, kilns, steel furnaces, scrap yards, plastic recycling industry, marble grinding, furniture making and several other kinds of cottage industries. All of these industries are spreading different types of pollutions especially air, noise, vibration and heat.
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The effects of Lahore’s urban sprawl

Yesterday, I posted an article about the LDA’s latest schemes in South Lahore.

Today, I’m posting my column as it appeared in The News:

Behind Lahore’s worsening crisis

Since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore’s Liberty Market, nothing seems to make sense anymore. The country and its people appear to be drifting to anarchy and chaos. There is deep political crisis. The presidency has stolen the mandate of the people of Punjab and the Swat peace deal is crumbling at its foundations. A Pakistani Taliban is taking over the northern regions. The economy is in deep slide (getting more IFI financing is not the same as a dynamic economy). Poverty is near 40 percent, and violence, intolerance and extremism are on the rise. Government institutions have failed; others are crumbling fast. The integrity of our armed forces is under question. Even cricket is dead.

We can scream blue murder because it’s broken. We can try and blame one another for breaking it. Or we can set about fixing it. You don’t need to be a genius to do this; or be a natural-born leader of men. You just need to participate. This is our mess. We need to clean it up.
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Urban Sprawl update: LDA launches two new housing schemes

by Yasir Habib Khan in The Nation, 23 March

LAHORE – Just few days before the new government is going to assume its charge in Punjab, the Lahore Development Authority has launched two new housing schemes with 2,10,000 plots.
These two schemes, situated at southern part of the city, are learnt to be run on the footstep of Defence Housing Authority. The LDA approved the housing schemes on October 31, 2006 with notification under LDA Act 1975 to meet the residential requirements of the city. The Punjab government has banned sale and purchase of land in the concerned areas.
One housing scheme covering around 25,000 kanal land will be situated at Raiwand road. while second housing scheme will spread on Ferozpur road spreading 2 lack and 25 thousands kanals of land
LDA Director General Muhammad Arif Khan announced the two schemes during a press conference held at LDA Plaza here on Saturday.
According to map of scheme, the housing scheme at Ferozepur road will touch from the North Hadiyara Drain, from the South Suaya Asal road, from the West main railway line. While front of the scheme would be stretched out million of kilometer on Ferozepur road. Raiwand road scheme includes 11 small townswhich include moza Janjate, Pajeyan, Khana Nepal, Dhondey, Rakh Raaye, Raaye, Rakgh Jaddo Dher, Jadu Dheer, Karyal, Raiwand and moza Jiya Bagga.
Both the schemes would involve 23 small towns including moza Sadhar, Pandoki, Jalkey, Chehdow, Rakth Chehdow, Toor Wariach, Tehpanju, Badooki, Khand, Asal Suleman, Aato Asal, Kachah, Kang Sharif, Jiya Bagga, Chak Boota, Dhodhey, Raiwand, Karyal, Jalal Pura, Jadu Dheer, Ladhu Key Acheh, Watney, and moza Kangra.
The housing schemes would focus low-income groups in the city besides preparing large number of three-marla plots for widows, orphans and the destitute. The LDA DG Muhammad Arif Khan said that in scheme No 1 there would be 7500 plots for one kanal plots, 7500 plots for 10 marlas, 8333 plots for 3 marlas.
In Scheme No 2, there would be 15000 plots for one kanal, 15000 plots for 10 marlas, and 16666 plots for 3 marlas.
It is learnt that Mian Amer Mahmood, who is also the chairman of the Lahore Development Authority, directed for selling these plots to the lower class on minimum possible prices, providing construction plans along with estimates to the people free of cost and exempting these plots from getting approved site plan.
The sources said that the district nazim asked for allocating big chunks of land for setting up four colleges, two each for boys and girls in these schemes as well as for reserving more land for public utility sites and establishing commercial areas in view of future requirements. “The nazim also directed to ensure electricity supply lines under ground and a water treatment plant included in the planning of these schemes, the sources concluded.

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

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