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Tree felling resumes for another project

Cutting of trees on Jail Road. — White Star
Cutting of trees on Jail Road. — White Star

LAHORE: Another tree-cutting spree in the city touches a raw nerve of the Lahorites and reactivates the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (save the city movement).

“It is downright a seditious act for the city dwellers as it irreversibly changes the character of their abode,” laments Imrana Tiwana of the movement.

For the last few days, the Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (Tepa) has started the widening of a service road in Gulberg area facing Jail Road. The road used to have a thick layer of green strip right up to the Main Boulevard, which now stands denuded.

For the Tepa, it is [an] inescapable problem: “All the surrounding roads (MM Alam, Main Boulevard and Jail Road) have been developed. It was a missing link as this road widening project – starting from Mini Market to College Road to the Main Boulevard – links all three of them. So, this widening was inevitable. Another pressure point is an upcoming twin tower project of the LDA – comprising one 26-storey and two 19-storey buildings. It would create additional traffic pressure on these roads. Thus, the road has to be widened to avoid future mess. The Green Concern of the Lahorites is valid, and is catered for in the project. The Tepa has cut 36 grown-up trees in the entire project and has the provision (both fiscal and space) of planting over 800 in the Rs232 million project,” explains Mazhar Hussain Khan of the agency.

Mrs Tiwana, however, has bigger concerns. “This twin tower project is new for the civil society and no one knows where it has come from. When and where was public hearing held for it or an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) made for this massive infrastructure in already overcrowded area? Where would this concretisation of the city stop? The new development preference for cities written by the Unesco calls for improving traffic management systems and leave spaces for greenery, not endless widening of roads.”

The Tepa official, on his part, thinks that the area from where trees have been uprooted was part of the already executed Jail Road widening project, in which the EIA was carried out. So, there was no need for fresh assessment.

“The history is not on the side of officials when they claim that 800 trees would be planted in place of 36 chopped down,” says Nawaz Khan, who commutes daily on the road on his way to office. The same kinds of promises were made when Jail Road widening project was launched and so was the Ferozepur Road project and not to forget the Metro Bus project. All those words were not kept and the city has been stripped off most of its green belts.”

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017