Category Archives: municipal

Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

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The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

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It’s Time for Critical Mass Lahore

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The last Sunday of the month is approaching, and so it’s time for Critical Mass. I can’t speak for the others (though I know many share this view), but getting on our cycles and going onto the streets of Lahore sends a powerful message: That the streets are open spaces; that men, women and children can enjoy the city and its many delights safely and without fear of molestation; that cycling is a viable form of transport; that the way our cities are managed is deplorable; and that, most of all, we are having fun in our own city and in our own country.

Come join the Critical Mass on Sunday. All you’ll need is a road worthy cycle and a sense of adventure. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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.
Continue reading

Lahore’s water contaminated by pollutants

* Paper by Anita Chaudhry says Lahore has no public storage capacity, sewage seeps into groundwater

By Khalid Hasan (writing for the Daily Times)

WASHINGTON: A hundred percent of samples taken from Lahore’s water supply and tested in 2006 were found to be contaminated, according to a paper presented at a conference on Pakistan’s water problem held at the Woodrow Wilson Centre.

According to Anita Chaudhry, who teaches Economics at the California State University, the contaminants found in Lahore’s water were iron, arsenic and bacteria.

Four years earlier, only 56 percent of the samples were contaminated. She also said that the average groundwater depth in east Lahore is 100 feet, while it is 40 feet in west Lahore. Access to safe drinking water in Punjab’s urban areas in 2002 was 95 percent against 87 percent in rural areas. Access to sanitation in urban areas was 92 percent and 35 percent in rural areas. Continue reading

The devastating rains in Lahore

LAHORE: The city witnessed partial rain on Thursday, while the other parts remained dry. Rain was recorded in Model Town, Shadman, Walled City, Jail Road, The Mall and Mozang. Continue reading

Illegal commercialisation of Model Town

: Residents waiting for action against by-law violators

By Afnan Khan

LAHORE: Residents of Model Town Society (MTS) still await action against people using residential plots for commercial activity.

Offices, private schools and even the office of the Special Investigation Unit, a wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), are still operational in the MTS.

Recently, the MTS administration handed over a list of more than 150 residential sites to the quarters concerned. The residents said they were living under constant threat after suicide bombers attacked the FIA office in the area on March 11. Continue reading

Lahore’s collapsed drainage and some intriguing questions

Ahmed Rafay Alam, the vocal lawyer and urban expert, with a sane and informed voice, left a comment here that needs to be posted for wider reading:

The water we see and experience isn’t because there aren’t any sewers. It’s because there isn’t any storm water drainage.

The low-lying areas of north Lahore were never set out according to plan. The few planned localities (chah miran, do moria area and Shadbagh) have sanitation. But the storm water of the area was meant to be absorbed. But if the natural vegetation of an area is given up to roads and other developments, then storm water has no place to go. Except stand there and make everyone look silly.

In the “posh” part of town, like Gulberg, there was water because the storm water drainage of the area (which was designed in the 1950s and 60s) has been gradually given way to street widening. There is no way to get the water that stands on Main Boulevard after a strong rain except to dig and built a storm water drain. Continue reading

It took 270 minutes for Lahore to drown

Lahore drowns in 270 minutes

* 86mm of rain paralyses routine life
* Major roads submerged, vehicles break down in rainwater
* Shahbaz Sharif hits the road to rescue flood-affected people
* WASA MD says authority is helpless in localities with no sewerage system

By Nauman Tasleem

LAHORE: A four-and-a-half-hour long spell of rain on the weekend paralysed routine life, as water accumulated on main roads and crossings, causing breakdown of a number of vehicles in various localities of the city. Continue reading

Facing urban congestion

By Ahmad Rafay Alam

Traffic congestion is a universal constant. What isn’t, on the other hand, is the many ways traffic congestion and transport problems are perceived and tackled. Some cities have managed to break free of their dependence of the automobile. Many more haven’t, and have lost themselves to Congestion. The approach each city takes to the problem of urban congestion and transport is an insight into their priorities and a gauge of how successful their efforts will be.

The motor vehicles that cause congestion are major polluters of urban air. For example, on June 7 the Environment Protection Agency of Punjab issued a report on air-quality monitoring in Lahore. According to the EPA, as of June 2008, Lahore’s air is the most polluted it has ever been. “Since records began.”

The EPA has compiled a list of factors that contribute to the increase in pollution. These include “traffic jams at crossings, and high density of traffic on the road.” In 2005, the District Officer (Environment) of Lahore had estimated that there were 1.5 million registered motor vehicles in Lahore. According to statistics recently released by the Excise and Taxation Department, 900,000 new vehicles were registered in Lahore between 2002 and 2007. Continue reading

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

Mercury rising:Factories in Lahore emitting tonnes of mercury in air daily

By Abdul Manan

LAHORE: Factories in the city are pumping hundreds of kilogrammes of mercury in the city’s air and water while the Environment Protection Department (EPD) has so far done nothing to curb this lethal pollution.

Talking to Daily Times, an EPD official said, “Mercury pollution is a very serious matter and should be dealt with on war footing.” He said that about six months ago, the federal agency for environment launched a project in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to prepare an inventory of mercury pollution. He said the federal agency tasked the EPD to do the work in Lahore, “but the EPD has done nothing and the expensive laboratory equipment [used to measure mercury in the air and water] is kept locked in the EPD store.”

He said the federal government had given the EPD the task to hold awareness seminars and programmes to sensitise factory owners on the increasing mercury levels in the city’s environment. But no such programme had been held, he added. Continue reading

Pollution in Lahore needs to be checked

  Story Source and Picture

SOLID WASTE management department of City District Government Lahore (CDGL) is heavily contributing in polluting the environment of the provincial capital in one or another way.

As per the figures collected from solid waste management (SWM) sources, around 6000 tons of solid waste is generated daily in Lahore, while over 500 tons waste is generated in Lahore cantonment board, model town society, defence housing society and other areas. Sources revealed that out of this 6000 ton of waste, 35 per cent remained on the roads due various reasons including low lifting capacity of SWM, lack of proper training to staff regarding lifting garbage, absence of staffers from duties etc. 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

Ban on Basant: 500,000 families without bread and butter

By Nauman Tasleem (Daily Times)

LAHORE: Around 500,000 families, directly related to the kite flying business, have lost their sources of livelihood because of the ban on Basant, the stakeholders of the kite flying industry told Daily Times on Friday.

The ban is costing them Rs 200 million annually, and at the same time damaging other businesses that are indirectly related to the festival. They said that the people related to the industry, including kite makers, twine (dor) makers, wholesalers and retailers, had lost their means of earning a living.

The cost of the paper used in kite making is estimated at around Rs 90 million and the cost of the twine used for flying kites is estimated at around Rs 40 million. Continue reading

Blame game on over Anarkali Food Street’s cleanliness

Abdul Manan and Fahad Baig write in the Daily Times:

LAHORE: The government took no heed of the public complaints regarding the poor sewerage system and unhygienic conditions of the Anarkali Food Street, which has been posing a filthy look for the last many months, Daily Times has learnt.

It has been observed that the food street lacks proper drainage facility, while now and then overflowing gutters and heaps of food waste add to the miseries of the shopkeepers there. For this very reason, foreigners are no longer to be seen visiting the food bazaar, which, now, surely offers all kinds of local ‘specialties’.

There has been a blame game between various government agencies over the cleanliness and maintenance of one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Continue reading

Lahore and Isfahan share the same cultural soul

From the Daily Times

Guest in town: ‘Lahore and Isfahan share same cultural soul’

* Isfahan mayor says city government of Isfahan spends $300m yearly on cleanlinessBy Ali Usman

LAHORE: Lahore and Isfahan share the same cultural soul and the two cities should strengthen cultural relations, whatever their political relations, said mayor of Isfahan, Iran, Dr Saghaeian Nejad.

Dr Nejad was talking to Daily Times on Saturday. His recent visit to Lahore aims at giving practical shape to the cultural agreements signed three years ago between the city governments of Isfahan and Lahore, when Lahore District Nazim Amer Mahmood visited Isfahan.

Dr Nejad said, “Political relations change with the changing times, but the cultural relations bind the nations. Both Lahore and Isfahan have great cultural diversity, historical background and hospitality. There is an old adage that Isfahan is the half world, but I must say Lahore and Isfahan together make the whole jahan (world).”

He said Lahore and Isfahan bore a great resemblance, as both had been the capitals during Ghazni and Mughal dynasties. Jamia Masjid (Isfahan) and Badshahi Masjid (Lahore) look alike in terms of architecture, he said. He said both the cities had shared sisterly relations and the city governments of the both cities had agreed to name their streets after each other’s names. Continue reading