LAHORE: Like other cosmopolitan cities of the world, the amorphous Lahore was faced with debilitating challenges of governance, inequality, technology, resources, transportation, and environment for which the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development (RRFUD) project was seen as a solution since 1947.
The previous governments had put the project off on one pretext or the other as they lacked will, vision and honest intent to address the ills of a sprawling metropolis but the mercurial leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) decided to save the city from the demon of overpopulation, poverty, and ecological disequilibrium through the development of a planned new city of the RRF.
Great feats need leaders and visionaries to be accomplished and the RRFUD project, after remaining in doldrums for years, was in search of a leader when Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to save this city from existential challenges and give it a new life by embracing the needs of change besides making it an economic giant.
Engineer Imran Zafar of the NESPAK, who has worked closely on the project, said that the RRFUD project will rub shoulders with the cities like Dubai, adding that it has been planned on the Dubai model and it will take some time in its fruition. He said that the only difficulty was to initiate the gigantic project as the previous government had shelved it but PM Imran has taken the decision to build a future city in Pakistan.
About the housing capacity in the new city, Engineer Imran Zafar said that so huge is the project of the new city that the whole population of the city can be accommodated in the Ravi Riverfront city. “12 new cities including residential city, medical city, downtown, commercial hub, urban farms and miscellaneous use city will be developed in the first phase with innovation city spanning over 1,370 acres in the second phase while, the third phase, knowledge city, sports city and eco-city on a land area of 14,000 acres will be completed,” he remarked, adding that a total land area of 103,271 acres will be acquired from public and government control for the development of RRFUD.
Zafar further added that the Ravi Riverfront will be developed in three phases and, in the initial phase, a lake covering 46 kilometers area, six wastewater treatment plants, three barrages, and an urban forest would be developed during the first three years. The town planning expert, to a question, said that the provision of water for drinking and irrigation is the top-most priority for which wastewater and surface water treatment plants will be installed.
Responding to a question, he said that the development of the lake will purge the Ravi from domestic and industrial waste and provide 271 billion liters of water, adding that the wastewater treatment plants would help treat 2.4 billion liter water daily and this water will irrigate 75,000 acres of land. He said that the new cities will add to the grandeur of the historic Lahore and set it apart from other mega-cities of the world.
About the advantages of RRFUD, he said that the development of a new city will definitely decrease the burden on Lahore and would improve civic amenities, adding that the present city, which is centuries old, had sprawled into a messy housing facility over the passage of time. To a query, the business community leader said the proposed location for the Ravi Riverfront project is very attractive, adding that a properly planned city would cater to the needs of people for the next 50-60 years.
“Islamabad is one of the only cities which is properly planned and it is hoped that the RRF City would provide same living standards”, he added. About the economic activity, Mian Zahid Jawaid said that at least 80-100 industry is linked with the real estate and construction industry, adding that the RRFUD project was sure to generate huge economic activity in the country with unlimited employment opportunities besides new investment avenues for the local and foreign investors. Provincial Minister Industries, Commerce and Investment Mian Aslam Iqbal, talking to APP on Thursday, said the RRFDU project is foreseen as a game-changer from the economic, social, urban development and environmental aspects in the millennia-old historic city of Lahore. “RRFUD project has been envisaged to overcome inequality, environmental threats like floods, besides generating resources like water, food, and energy, and ensuring good-governance while it will ease down pressure on the existing city,” he said.
To a query, he said that it is historic that PM Imran has inaugurated the RRFUD project in the epoch-making month of August when Pakistan came into being, adding that premier has stood true to his manifesto of making a new Pakistan from the decaying edifice of a corruption-ridden political system.
The minister Investments said that the project will generate enormous financial activity through the creation of new jobs, housing facilities, a clean environment, and futuristic facilities. He further said the project was a step towards partial fulfillment of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) election manifesto. Punjab industries and commerce minister, about the economic opportunities, said that the RRFUD project will usher in an era of economic boon through immense business activity worth billions of rupees, adding that the project is also expected to create millions of new jobs, improve water resources, enhance living standards and provide a cleaner greener environment for the generations to come.
About the ambitious urban development projects, Mian Aslam Iqbal said the RRFUD project is close to the heart of PM Imran who has a clear vision about a new Lahore which rubs shoulders with the modern cities of the world. To a query, he said the new city model, under the RFUD project, has been envisaged keeping in view the problems like shortage of clean drinking water, insufficient housing facilities, environmental hazards, ill-planned business areas, and lack of sporting of facilities.
Elaborating the importance of ‘Surface Water Treatment Plants’, he said the plant will decrease dependency of the Lahorites on the groundwater by 50 percent as 2.4 billion liters of safe drinking water will be produced from the canal water after treatment. On the finances, he said the RRFUD project will be completed with an estimated cost of 2000 billion rupees with financing to be met through Public-Private Partnerships, Joint ventures and Private Finance Initiative (PFI), multilateral loan, budgetary grants, and developer financing. To a query, he said water is the basic needs of the human population and industry and the city has been planned to meet the water needs of Lahore till 2045, adding that the river Ravi will be channelized for 46 kilometers with 3280 ft in width and a wall height of 33 feet. He said three barrages will be built to attain the water level for the riverfront.
About the environment-friendly city, he said PM Imran feels the pulse of changing times and has launched the Billion Tree Project to make Pakistan rich in green areas and protect it from future environmental hazards. “The old city does not meet the international standards of green areas in the urban developments, adding that six million saplings will be planted to turn it not a remarkably cleaner and greener city. He further said the rich green cover will be the hallmark of the RRFUD project. Provincial Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal said RRFUD will provide a viable solution to the urbanisation challenges of the 21st century, besides it will generate enormous economic activity to benefit every stratum of life as per the economic vision of the premier.