Islamabad: The Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province has a grand vision for the development of the province as he plans to build a “Dubai-like” modern city near Lahore.
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has approved the construction of multi-billion Ravi Riverfront Project for developing a modern city in the north of Lahore spread over more than 100,000 acres.
Punjab government would proclaim an ordinance for the establishment with the chief minister as its chairperson, according to the official statement. The Punjab cabinet would give the final approval on the finances and other matters related to the project, he said. It is anticipated that the private sector would invest about Rs5 trillion in the venture. The idea behind the project is to resolve the issues of traffic congestion, water shortage and environmental pollution in Lahore – a city of over 11 million.
- Commercial zone and central business district
- Large lake and three barrages
- Forest reserve and urban farms
- Medical city
- Innovation and Knowledge city
- Tourism and sports city
PM Imran Khan supports green urban development
Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan headed a meeting of Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project (RRUDP) in Lahore and directed Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to prepare an integrated plan to meet the challenges of clean drinking water and unplanned construction.
Last year, PM Imran Khan sharing his new vision for future urban development, encouraged vertical construction to “allow for more green spaces as Pakistan is one of the most environmentally-threatened countries”. He also argued that “arable land is being eaten up by housing societies and has grave consequences for our food security in the future” which is why it is significant to allow buildings “to go as high as in other cities across the world” keeping in view international safety standards.
What environmentalists say?
Dr. Masoud Arshad, Senior Director, Water, Food and Climate at WWF-Pakistan, fears the new project along the River Ravi, could “put additional pressure on the existing natural resources and lead to shortage of underground water resources in near future”. He encouraged policymakers to focus on sustainable development. “We should study and implement the ‘Room for River approach’ as “the floodplain of the River Ravi should be kept intact to address the issues of floods (impacts of climate change) and to recharge our lost aquifers” he told Gulf News.
Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project
The project was originally envisioned in 2013 and Meinhardt (Pakistan) – part of global consultancy firm working in the country since 1992 – was hired to lead the consortium to conduct the feasibility study. “The environmental and social impact assessment highlighted the positive impacts of the project such as economic uplifting of the region and country, improved quality of life, socioeconomic and lifestyle enhancement, ecological uplifting of River Ravi, sustainable lifestyle, tourism and flood protection” according to Meinhardt Group. Some of the negative impacts, according to the firm, include loss of agricultural lands of about 76,684 acres and impact on almost 65 settlements that include a population of 80,000, but “these are expected to be temporary in nature and can be mitigated.” The group suggested a public-private-partnership model for project implementation and management.
Rehabilitate the Ravi River
The project of the new city to be built on the banks of the Ravi River proposed to rehabilitate and develop the dying River Ravi into a perennial freshwater body. To make Ravi riverfront urban development successful and sustainable, it was suggested that careful measures should be undertaken “to maintain the river’s water flow at a certain level, alleviate flooding and improve the river water quality through river training construction of barrages, weirs and water bodies to temporarily store excess surface water, and the introduction of wastewater treatment” to prevent the discharge of raw wastewater into the Ravi River.