LAHORE: The government has decided to brief the federal cabinet on the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project to enable the ministers and others concerned to speak on the issue with correct knowledge while interacting with media, individuals, groups and institutions at any forum.

The decision to give a detailed briefing, which is likely to be held on Tuesday (tomorrow), was taken after Prime Minister Imran Khan was informed that it was necessary since the ministers had no knowledge of this issue.

“At a recent meeting, I told PM Imran Khan that giving a detailed briefing to the ministers on this Rs5 trillion project is the need of the hour, and, therefore, there should be a meeting with the cabinet members,” the project’s official spokesperson S.M Imran told Dawn on Sunday.

“The PM agreed and pledged to arrange a cabinet meeting soon. Hopefully, it will be on Tuesday where I, along with my team, will give a briefing to the cabinet members on the salient features, scope of the project, land acquisition etc,” Mr Imran, a known businessman who also work as Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Vice Chairman added.

Speaking about the ongoing protests by the residents, small industry owners, farmers, landlords, civil society activists and other stakeholders against the project, he claimed that people were being misguided and made to take out protest rallies / demonstrations just to create hurdles in the way of executing such a mega plan that would prove to be most beneficial to the public at large.

“I assure you that none of the houses, factories or built-up areas will be acquired. Recently there was also a rumor, spread by a local political personality, that the people of Shahdara, adjoining localities and other residential areas comprising a huge population of two million would be relocated. But, it is not fact as Shahdara and other localities are no more part of this project since these were already excluded in 2014,” he clarified. He said the project feasibility study that was carried out in 2014/15 required to be updated in view of the current situation (population, number of houses, factories, agriculture land etc). And hopefully, the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) is working on this issue, he said.

Earlier in a statement issued here on Sunday, the spokesman invited the local residents to express their concerns about the Ravi project, requesting them to protest if their land was being acquired instantly. “The locals should not panic as only a comprehensive survey of the area is being carried out at the moment. The objective of the survey is to collect details of built up area including location of industrial units, houses, schools, hospitals, mosques and other buildings for the purpose of planning,” he maintained.

He said the project was not new to the people, as it was more than 20 years old and successive governments had worked on it already. No one raised any objection or lodged protest against it in the past. “But citizens are now being provoked for a cause which is not good,” he added.

He urged the citizens not to listen to those misleading them for their vested motives. Mr Imran said the section 4 was invoked on an area of 102,000 acre, as according to the survey conducted at that time, there were 3,100 acre consisting of illegal settlements in the area which were built without any planning. “Today, after six years, illegal settlements have spread over an area of about 7,000 acre. Therefore, if it is not planned, illegal chaotic constructions will grow more,” he said.

He said the project, which is a new city with a 30-year plan would have six million trees besides a forest over 1,700 acre.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2020

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