Tag Archives: Urbane

Save Lahore Canal – sign this petition

Please sign this petition

To:  Citizens of Lahore

As you may have heard, The Punjab government is planning to widen the road on both sides of the Lahore Canal, from Thokar Niaz Baig to Dharampura, as a so-called solution for the congestion on the canal road due to the rapidly increasing automobile population. The Punjab Chief Minister had announced that the project would begin immediately after Eid-ul-Azha, however, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo moto notice and effectively restrained the government from commencing work on the project on 27 November 2009. The government has not fulfilled its legal obligation of carrying out an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment)for the project and the lack of transparency of the program is depriving the citizens of Lahore from having a say in this change.

It is the consensus of a great number of organizations and groups of concerned citizens that the Rs 3.15 billion project violates basic principles of traffic design and will not only prove ineffective in countering traffic congestion, but also lead to an outstanding number of problems related to the well-being of the public and the environment. Widened roads have historically proven to only end up attracting more traffic, and the government’s focus on providing for the car-owning citizen over the abounding majority (which requires public transport, sidewalks, public toilets, phones and drinking water) is entirely against the principles of equity. The project also means the cutting down of several thousand old trees and losing over 50 acres of the green belt, which is sure to lead to a staggering number of environmental problems including rising temperatures and carbon and toxic content, not to mention the loss of ancient species of trees and shrubs that provide shelter to a variety of birds and small animals. The historical, environmental, recreational and aesthetic value of this green space cannot be stressed enough.

We demand that our voice be heard to address these critical issues and help preserve the beauty and grandeur of our city.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Land of contradictions – ramblings from Lahore

Ahmad Rafay Alam

To say Pakistan is a mass of contradictions is an understatement. We live in a country where powerful politicians don’t need to be elected, where the chief justice is without a courtroom and where army officers, until a few months ago, controlled the Water and Power Development Authority. Recently, I found a Club Class return trip ticket on our national carrier was two thousand rupees cheaper than its Economy Class equivalent. Things are certainly topsy-turvy in these parts.

These contradictions permeate through everything. They exist everywhere. For instance, my journey from home in Lahore’s Upper Mall to the High Court takes 30 minutes, even though all I need to do is travel straight down The Mall. But a journey to LUMS, in the farthest regions of Defence’s U-Block, through the Cantonment and numerous traffic intersections, never takes more than 25.

If you’ve even visited the Royal Palm Golf & Country Club along Lahore’s Canal, you’ve probably noticed the high walls that keep the middle-class residents along Allama Iqbal Road, in the Garhi Shahu and Railway areas and the squatters that occupy Railway land near the tracks off the golf course. But anywhere else in the world, property that overlooks a golf course and country club usually gets picked up by the extremely rich. There must be something seriously wrong in our property development paradigm where land values can be so skewed. 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