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Lahore: LDA canal road commercialisation move comes under fire

Lahore Bachao Tehrik has flayed a move of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) to commercialise 58 more streets and roads in the provincial capital.

Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Imrana Tawana, Rafay Alam and Iram Aftab in a press conference held here on Friday at Lahore Press Club said the Tehrik was not against the development or commercialization but it believed that LDA’s action was illegal, irresponsible, destructive and harmful to the environment, economy and welfare of the city, and should be stopped forthwith.

They said LDA has no authority to term streets “commercial”. They said land-use zoning, building heights, set-backs, floor area and the other building regulations and rules, street widths, nature of traffic and parking provisions etc were highly technical matters of urban planning, traffic engineering and should be managed on the basis of physical and socio-economic surveys, data analysis and projections for populations, growth dynamics, infrastructure capacities etc. They said these matters should not be subject to arbitrary and ad-hoc decisions based on subjective opinion polls.

Designating certain streets as “commercial” in the LDA lexicon means changing the building regulations governing the properties abutting those streets, permitting greater building heights, larger floor area ratios, more car parking provisions, they said.

The result will be replacement of planned development with urban chaos, which will lead to unsustainable loads on urban infrastructure including electricity, water supply, sewerage, and increased motor traffic, increased noise and air pollution, they maintained. The only beneficiary of this ad-hoc “commercialization” will be the LDA, which will collect commercialization fees. Besides, the speculative property developers will also earn profit from the “investment opportunities”, they added.

The LDA commissioned a series of master plans, urban development and traffic studies and master plan up-dates, all of which included clear policies and plans for the development of commercial land-use areas and zones in both urban renewal and urban expansion areas.

The location and nature of commercial development should be according to these policies and plans and not according to arbitrary and ad-hoc decisions based on subjective opinion polls; The policies and plans should indeed be constantly monitored and reviewed by relevant experts and public interest groups whose “considered recommendations” should be taken into account while reviewing policies and plans in the light of changing circumstances.

The proposed “commercialization” will have impacts on traffic, waste management, existing and future public transport systems and the provision of other utilities and cannot be undertaken, by law, without an environment impact assessment, they added.

With respect to recent news reports regarding the chief minister’s direction to reconsider the widening of the Canal bank Road, the Lahore Bachao Tehrik reiterated its firm stance that the Lahore Canal was one of the world’s great recreational avenues and should be declared a “no-go” zone with respect to commercialization. The Tehrik further pointed out that under the law no such road widening project could proceed without an environment impact assessment and a public hearing.

Source: The News

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