LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday directed the Punjab government to present the master plan of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project (RRUDP).

A law officer of the government claimed that the master plan had been prepared in June 2021. However, Justice Shahid Karim doubted the claim.

The judge observed that had there been a master plan of the project, the lawyers of the provincial government or the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) would have produced it along with their written statements.

The judge also expressed displeasure at the government for starting the land acquisition process much before the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval.

Court offended at land acquisition before EIA

On behalf of the petitioners against the project, Advocate Sheraz Zaka told the court that the Ruda itself admitted in its reply that the project’s EIA was still pending approval before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Justice Karim said that apparently in the matter the process had been carried out in a haphazard manner and the respondents, including Ruda and the government, were not recognising the fact that there was an elephant in the room.

The judge directed the government to produce the master plan or else it would face the consequences on the next date of hearing on Sept 29.

Ruda’s Reply: The Ruda filed its reply through its counsel Shazib Masud, saying the land acquisition is very much within the purview of the public purposes.

It says the authority has been created to evolve a policy and programmes for the purposes of housing, including but not limited to traffic, transportation, health, education, water supply, sewerage and solid waste disposal.

It rejects the petitioners’ apprehensions that the authority’s projects would cause environmental hazardous.

It states that although the issue of smog is dealt with by the Punjab Disaster Management Authority, the Ruda is going to rehabilitate water aquifer in the dying river Ravi and create a huge water reservoir having a capacity of 270 billion litters through lakes and barrages at the edge of a mega city like Lahore.

“This sole step would curtail the smog in the air,” the Ruda claims, adding the project is also aimed at upgrading the environment by way of plantation of more than six million trees, besides the urban forest.

It claims the project would also help meet 50 percent of Lahore’s demand of clean drinking water.

The Ruda claims that the reservations expressed by the petitioners against the project are “misconceived and based upon mere apprehensions”.

It asks the court to dismiss the petitions to meet the ends of justice.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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