THIS refers to the article ‘Remaking a river: land and profit along the Ravi’ (EOS June 13) which talked about the much-hyped Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project. The plan to have a project of high-rise buildings along the Ravi is nothing but a sugar-coated land-grabbing scheme to enjoy, among other things, tax amnesty.

Almost 102,074 acres of green agriculture land, including 80,000 acres of rich farmland, is planned to be converted into a concrete jungle. While the developers tout it to be an ecologically friendly project, environmental scientists disagree. Since there is no water in the Ravi, the plan envisages building dams near Sialkot on prime rice fields to store rainwater to fill the dry river.

The River Ravi Project, first conceived in 2006, was shelved because of the cost factors and its negative impact on the environment. The present plan is to emulate a Dubai-style luxury housing on 90 per cent of the land acquired, and to have low-cost housing on 10pc land.

As it is, hundreds of thousands of acres in Lahore have been reduced to a concrete jungle. Hardly 40pc of it is covered with residences, while the rest comprises empty plots being sold and resold.

Unfortunately, the powerful black economy has made Pakistan a haven for real estate developers to enjoy endless tax amnesty schemes. They have not only grabbed and sold private lands, but have also acquired forest and state land as well as designated amenity plots.

Malik Tariq Ali
Lahore

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2021

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