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Land acquisition: Price assessment inflated in Lahore Ring Road project

LAHORE: Concerns have been raised about corruption in a road project of the city district government, after the District Price Assessment Committee (DPAC) issued an assessment of the value of land needed for the project that is four times its previous estimate only two years ago.

The chief engineer of the Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency has written to the Lahore Development Authority’s (LDA) land acquisition collector questioning the latest assessment issued by the DPAC. In its first notification, dated February 23, 2009, the DPAC says that the price of the land required for the construction of an alternative route to Raiwind Road from Khayaban-i-Jinnah, crossing Defence Road along the Butcher Khana distributary, is Rs181.930 million. But in a second notification issued on June 23, 2011, the DPAC assesses the value of the land at Rs859.855 million. According to the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, price assessment notifications for land to be bought for public projects can be issued only once.

Tepa Chief Engineer Saifur Rehman wrote to the LDA land acquisition collector on July 4 questioning the assessment. He said that DPAC did not differentiate between agriculture land and residential land. For example, the cost assessed for Ameerpura village was stated to be Rs1,500,000 per kanal for both agriculture and residential land.

According to a Revenue Department notification, however, the rates are quite different, said the Tepa chief. He also noted that land was bought in the same vicinity for a road from Khayaban-i-Jinnah to Valencia Town in 2009 for Rs700,000 per kanal, while the latest assessment put the land value at Rs1,500,000 per kanal (in Ameerpura) and Rs1,400,000 per kanal (Sadhoke),even for agriculture land.

The TEPA chief asks the collector to inform “the competent authority” so that the rates can be reassessed.

Inflated assessments of land value are often an indication of corruption in a project. The chief minister, on July 25, set up a committee to investigate allegations that there had been similarly inflated land assessments in the Lahore Ring Road project. The allegations are that land for the Ring Road in Mouza Kamahan had been bought at Rs20 million per acre, when the actual price was Rs3 million per acre. The committee is led by the senior member of the Board of Revenue and including the director general of the Anti-Corruption Establishment and the district coordination officer.

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