Public hearing of Lahore Canal Bank Road widening stated ‘illegal’

LAHORE: The Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT) on Wednesday declared the public hearing for Lahore Canal Bank Road Widening Project and remodelling of Jail Road Chobacha and other underpasses as “illegal, against the law and against the decision of superior courts.” 
Addressing the public hearing at the Punjab Institute of Languages, Arts and Culture (PILAAC), LBT Convener Imrana Tiwana said that as per Suo Moto Case No 25 of 2009 by the Supreme Court (reported as 2011 SCMR 1743), this public hearing for canal road widening project was illegal and violation of the Lahore Canal Heritage Park Act, 2013. She said that similar illegal public hearing was also conducted before the Metro Bus Project in which no suggestion, which was against the construction, was accepted. 
“We, the citizens of Lahore, reject the project of widening of Lahore Canal Bank Road at various points, as this is illegal,” she said. She said that spending Rs 8 billion on only 7 percent of commuters was totally wrong and unfair, as over 60 percent of Lahore residents did not have access to potable water.
“Rulers talk about economic development but economic development states that first the government has to provide the people with basic facilities but this is not happening in Pakistan,” she added. 
Imrana Tiwana said that metro busses were running in over 60 countries but no iron grills were installed anywhere in the world. The government was applying world’s failed projects in Pakistan, she added.   
Quoting the Lahore Canal Heritage Park Act, she said: “The conditions prescribed in Section 3(8) of the act envisage that a departure can only be made for a temporary activity and/or in a very limited particularised area of the park. Such a large-scale destruction of the park as is obvious from the agenda specified in the public hearing notice is illegal, unlawful, malafide and against the mandate of the act as well as order of the Supreme Court. Moreover, the emphasis by the act inter alia on the importance of every single ‘tree’ [Section 2(d), Section 3(2), 3(7) and Section 6(d)] unequivocally lays down that no massive permanent structure or continued activity can be undertaken which jeopardises even a single tree in the park. Hence, the exercises specified in the public hearing notice are against the ‘express letter as well as spirit’ of the act itself and, therefore, are illegal”.
Renowned environmental lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam was of the view that the Punjab government had spent over Rs 60 billion during the last 20 years on the Lahore Canal. “Whenever Lahore Development Authority (LDA) officials send a proposal for any underpass or flyover, they claim that traffic issues of Lahore will be resolved after completion of the said project, but that nothing such has happened,” he added.
About the Lahore Canal Heritage Park Act, Alam said that the Punjab Assembly and not the LBT or any other civil society organisation had made this law. He said that green belts on both sides of Lahore Canal were public trust and heritage and must not be ruined for commuters. He added that widening of the Lahore Canal Bank Road was a violation of the act and must be stopped. 
WWF-Pakistan Director General Ali Hassan Habib said that the fund had offered conducting a GIS-based boundary delineation of the Heritage Park during the first meeting of the committee held in May 2013 and it was agreed to conduct it jointly with the relevant government departments but that this was never conducted. 
MPA Waheed Gull and some PML-N supporters spoke in favour of the Canal Road Widening Project and said that residents of adjoining areas were facing problem and that they have to spend hours to reach their homes; therefore, the project was in the interest of general public.

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