LAHORE: While the Lahore Development Authority is working on a proposal to open more city roads for commercialisation, the divisional administration as well as the civil society activists say they will not allow the LDA or any other department to further change the character of this historic city by carrying out such activities on the pretext of enhancing revenue.
“I am making efforts to revive Lahore in its original form to some extent, as it is a city visited by a number of tourists to witness our culture, architecture, lifestyle, heritage etc. But, unfortunately, we, due to increased commercialisation, are losing this fast. So I will not allow any department, including the LDA to go for commercialising more city roads or areas, as it will further damage our city,” Commissioner Asif Bilal Lodhi told Dawn.
“I am convener of a committee constituted by the Punjab government to deal with various civic issues, including commercialisation. Let the departments concerned come up with their proposals in this regard. But I assure the people they should not worry about this, as I will not permit anyone to commercialise more roads, areas since Lahore is already in a trouble owing to this issue in particular,” he added.
Being the country’s cultural hub and the second major city, Lahore continues witnessing a rapid urban growth since long. The city faces various civic issues because of commercialisation and other factors. Unfortunately, the government
failed to properly monitor the LDA, the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation, town municipal/zonal administrations entrusted with the task of regulating the fast-expanding city. As a result, the departments kept opening various roads for commercialisation that further complicated the chronic issues of traffic congestion, encroachment, parking etc.
Mr Lodhi said Lahore was a city having trees and greenery where commercial activities were restricted only to the designated areas, as there was no concept of allowing such activities in the areas declared frozen for this purpose. “But now, the situation has completely changed, as the city seems to be witnessing many issues due to increased commercialisation.
Moreover, he said, the number of fruit trees in the city has also considerably dropped, especially along the Canal Road. “And this is unacceptable for me,” he said.
According to an LDA official, opening more areas for commercialisation is just a proposals. “We are presently working on introducing various amendments in the rules and regulations related to town planning, commercialisation etc. Side by side various proposals related to commercialisation of various new roads — Canal Road, New Defence Road, Raiwind Road, southern bypass (Road from Shaukat Khanum intersection to Thokar) and others — are being prepared keeping in view the public demand. But, we have not yet decided anything as it is not a simple matter,” LDA Director (commercial) Shakil Ahmad explained.
He confirmed various proposals related to commercialisation and other issues were being discussed. And if these were considered implementable, these would be first approved by the LDA’s sections concerned and then submitted to the authority’s governing body that could reject or accept the proposals, he added.
“After this, the Punjab cabinet will take up these proposals if the LDA body accords approval. And after approval of the cabinet, the LDA would be in a position to open new roads for commercialisation. “So the issue is not so simple, as it will take time to reach a consensus. To date, these are just proposals,” he clarified.
On the other hand, civil society has also rejected the plan to allow more commercial activities in the city. “We will not allow anyone to do this since the city has been facing several issues due to such activities. And if the government tried to do so, we will resist this by all means,” Lahore Conservation Society’s information secretary Ajaz Anwar warned.