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Balding of Canal Road begins

LAHORE – As the balding process for the Canal Road has begun, about 1,000 trees would be axed from Thokar Niaz Baig to Dharampura strech of the road. According to PHA officials, 111 trees have already been axed.

The project has been started again after the Supreme Court allowed the provincial government to undertake the project by causing minimum damage to the greenbelt on Thursday. The SC allowed the government to restore the Canal Road widening project to minimise the traffic woes.

The initial plan to stretch the road was 14 kilometers but now only 3.5 km section of the road would be widened. The PHA authorities have started cutting trees along the Canal Bank Road from FC College Underpass to The Mall Road Underpass. The PHA officials said that the trees would also be cut from Doctors’ Hospital to Campus Underpasses. The officials said that 450 skilled workers of the PHA were busy in the tree cutting with the help of heavy machinery and the work would be completed in ten days. They claimed that 4,000 trees would be planted in place of 1,000.

The officials said that the Punjab government had initially tasked Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA) to carry out this project but it recently appointed the Communication and Works Department (C&WD) to execute the project. The TEPA and the PHA would assist the C&W department in this regard. They said they were tasked to cut 1,000 trees but they were redesigning the feasibility to cause minimum damage to the greenbelt.

The officials said around 42 feet width would be made available for the widening of the road, adding they were also compiling data of tree, their size and covered area etc. The government had allocated Rs 10 million in the provincial budget 2011-2012 for the project. The Canal Road widening project has been resumed in the light of guidelines drafted by the committee formed by Supreme Court of Pakistan. It may be mentioned here that the project has been hanging in the balance since 2007 and Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo moto action in 2009 after the civil society and environmentalists raised their concerns on the project.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said best infrastructure is of great importance for promotion of economic and trade activities and rapid development, and the Punjab government is paying special attention to the improvement of infrastructure in the province.
He added that widening of canal road was utmost essential due to the increasing traffic rush on the canal road; therefore, the project had been started in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court which would be completed in a record period of 90 days by working round the clock.

He was addressing a foundation laying ceremony of the canal road widening project near FC College here on Saturday. MPAs Shahzadi Umarzadi Tiwana, Khawaja Salman Rafique, Hafiz Mian Nauman and Dr Saeed Elahi, Chairman Planning & Development, Additional Chief Secretary, Sector Incharge of NLC and officers concerned were also present on the occasion. Secretary Communication and Works Major (retd) Azam Salman Khan gave a detailed briefing regarding the project.

The CM mentioned that the SC had ordered plantation of four new trees against cutting of one tree during widening of canal road; however, by fully implementing the SC decision, ten trees would be planted against cutting of a tree. He added that transparency, quality and speedy development were hallmarks of the Punjab government and all development projects were being completed expeditiously. “The best traffic plan was made during the construction of Kalma flyover.

However, canal road is the busiest road; therefore, another such plan should be made for the traffic here so that citizens, particularly students, and the patients should not face any inconvenience. Complete arrangements for bus lane of international standard should be made on canal road and excellent pedestrian bridges be constructed at different places. Also eye-catching landscaping be made alongside the canal so that the people living in surroundings of the canal and passing through it could see the attractive scenes,” he directed.

Replying to various questions of the mediamen, the CM said free medical facilities were being provided to the dengue patients in private and government hospitals and maximum fee for blood test of dengue virus had been fixed at Rs 90 in consultation with the owners of private laboratories. He said action would be taken under Section 144 against the private laboratory for overcharging, and strict action would also be taken against the private hospitals procrastinating in providing free medical treatment to the dengue patients as per promise.

Earlier, Azam Salman Khan and Director General PHA Abdul Jabbar Shaheen gave briefings about widening of canal bank road and horticulture plan respectively. Secretary C&W told that the project of widening of canal road would cost Rs 1.5 billion and this project would be completed within stipulated time by working round the clock. He informed that missing links service roads, pedestrian bridges at various places and bus-bays at suitable places would also be constructed.

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