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Muslim Town flyover turns a white elephant

LAHORE – Sluggish construction apart, but building more and more flyovers for this ancient city would ultimately herald new businesses and further ease the traffic. The benevolent idea falls apart when the time is not on the side of those executing a project. This is exactly what is currently happening with the company constructing the Lahore Canal Flyover at the Muslim Town.

The project is not only causing massive nuisance to commuters and those residing in its vicinity or the traders of the area — due to digging on a massive scale – but also to National Logistic Cell, the company famous for finishing its projects, including flyovers, in time. Its latest feat was the construction of the Kalma Flyover, which it completed in just 135 days. But constructing in time the over 1-km long flyover is oozing out some serious hurdles for the firm itself, TheNation has learnt.

A recent survey conducted by TheNation has revealed that now it looks beyond perception that the project would see the light of the day as planned. “No matter who is responsible for now-certain delay, the construction company is using delaying tactics viz-a-viz completion of this vital project,” a trader said. According to him, the most plausible names causing this delay are the provincial government, City District Government and the NLC.

“It maybe any reason; but it is the business community which will be the end-losers. The hundreds of traders — running small and major businesses on both sides of the road from Ichrah to Canal Bypass – are the end losers.”

It was witnessed during the survey that majority of the traders and businessmen in the areas deal in building material, sanitary-ware, kitchen and bathroom accessories, tiles, and carpets. Besides, dozens of food outlets, medical centers, general stores and milk shops are also functioning on both sides of the road.

While talking to this scribe, a number of traders showed a serious concern about the bad effects of the project delaying. They said as far as their businesses were concerned, they were making no equity at all these days. “We are in troubled water and we are uncertain about any good change in near future for our businesses,” another trader said complaining.

Nawaz Ahmad, who deals in sanitary items, said that his business is suffering badly as a result of the slow-paced construction work on the road. “Customers are reluctant to reach the main business area as they have to cross deep holes on the road, heaps of construction martial lying on the road, and the slow-paced traffic on the service roads. This is badly damaging my business,” Nawaz maintained.

Muhammad Hussain, another trader who deals in floor tiles, expressed his apprehensions about the post-construction effects on his business. He said: “It will be hard to attract customers as they have to reach here by traveling across the whole flyover — about 1km long from start to finish.” He feared that in future, the traders of the area would have to run their businesses beneath the bridge.

Sources in the CDG told this scribe that under pressure from the provincial government, the CDG authorities were thinking of selling some of the assets of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and City District Government for the purpose. “This was in abeyance of the orders of the Chief Minister.” However, the CDG authorities could arrange only Rs1 billion for the purpose so far, with the help of Lahore Development Authority, which arranged such a huge amount after auctioning a piece of land earmarked for a super-store, proposed to be set up at the Expo Centre, in Johar Town. The remaining amount — about two and half billion rupees — would also be arranged through auction of other plots and government properties, they added.

The sources further informed that earlier, District Coordination Officer Ahad Cheema, had requested the CM that it is difficult for CDGL alone to arrange such a huge amount of about Rs3.5 billion, required for the construction of the flyovers on the City Canal. However, the DG LDA Abdul Jabbar Shaheen had promised the government that Lahore Development Authority would provide about two billion rupees for the purpose.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Canal Flyover Project will be completed by March 20, 2012 by working round the clock and formally be inaugurated on March 23. City Government is providing funds for this project. The officials had maintained that basic purpose of laying a network of roads and bridges in the provincial metropolis is to streamline the flow of traffic and provide relief to the people. Moreover, estimated cost of the construction of canal flyover is Rs.3.5 billion while it will result in a saving of Rs.2.8 billion annually in the travel cost after its completion, they added.

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