By Naeem Khan Niazi
Present day Lahore has witnessed many ups and downs in its centuries-old history. Different emperors ruled it since antiquity and by the time when became part of Pakistan in 1947. Being a historic and cultural city also known as Temple of Earning, Lahore has been focus of migrants.
In recent decades it population sky rocketed owing to facilities available in the metropolis. Consequently, the resources continued shrinking. Traffic load, construction on agriculture land, industrialization with subsequent pollution and extra load on vital water resource are the known major challenges of this mega city.
In this scenario the burgeoning provincial metropolis needed effective urban planning to save it from unruly population growth, cultural, civic and environmental degradation besides the dying down rive Ravi that had once to be a key source of beauty and underground water recharging. These challenges necessitated to developing a new city – something magnanimous to cope with the mounting pressure.
Keeping in view, a mega Ravi Riverfront Project to construct a New Lahore was envisioned in 2014. But, it was a huge project and shelved by the then government soon after deliberating on it as experts had opined, it could not be executed. For last half a decade, this proposal awaited action, but no one dared.
It was the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) government that recognized the demon of overpopulation, poor civic amenities, economic and ecological disequilibrium and planned new city under Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project (RRFUD). This new city would help Lahore fight debilitating challenges of governance, inequality, technology, resources, transportation, environment and economic decline.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has frequently stressed that the construction industry is the key sector to boom country’s economy that is why construction industry was never put under lockdown even during Covid-19 epidemic. The Prime Minister Khan has also been personally monitoring the project which has been enstrusted to the Ravi Urban Development Autbority (RUDA) with Engr. Rashid Aziz as its chairman.
His government announced multiple incentives for the construction industry to facilitate investors in smooth flow of capital and huge investment by announcing tax reductions, financing facility and simplifying relevant laws.
Chairman RUDA Rashid Aziz believes that the new city would generate massive economic activity with the boom of construction industry as the real-estate and construction industry, local and foreign, have shown keen interest in developing this city.
“Developing a 46-kilometer lake, three barrages, 12 urban centers will create new opportunities for skilled and unskilled labour, engineers, architects and related industries,” Rashid said.
Today I felt great excitement in doing stone laying of Ravi City, one of the biggest mega projects we have launched in our history.This will save Lahore by stopping spread of unplanned urban sprawl, raise water table & revive River Ravi preventing it from becoming a sewerage nala
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) August 7, 2020
He said at least 46 industries are linked with construction industry and RRFUD project will generate minimum 260,000 jobs with a revenue generation of Rs 250 billion that can be much more in future.
Rashid Aziz believes Ravi Riverfront will serve as a template for other cities as he mentioned to Karachi coastline and the cities along the riverbanks including Gujrat, Wazirabad, Jhelum, Khushab etc where such projects could also be executed.
He said the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has already shown interest in the development of the Ravi City and establish their business hub in the new planned city as this natural business hub will reduce the transportation time and costs.
Vice-Chairman Lahore Development Authority (LDA) S M Imran said the Ravi Riverfront project will change fortune of this country as its economic advantages will not only be limited to Lahore.
“Just imagine the economic activity linked to the development of the new city along a lake protected by retaining walls, barrages, bridges and water treatment plants. This lake would not meet water needs of Lahorites but also recharge ground water in a vast area even beyond Lahore,” he said.
He said the housing project and the development of 12 small cities within the Ravi City will provide new investment opportunities for the construction industry home and abroad. “The new city will also help control the mushroom growth of illegal housing societies, illegal developments and shanty towns.”
Vice-President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tariq Mehmood Chaudhry said at least 40 industries are linked with the real-estate and construction industry and RRFUD project would flourish all these industries, attract local and foreign investment and generate employment for the local people.
He said Ravi Riverfront Urban project is a multibillion rupees project which has already attracted Rs eight billion foreign investments. “It will be Dubai-like city having high-rise building and business centers to provide a cherished destination for business community across the globe.”
He said the city under RUDA will generate employment opportunities in the province while the construction industry will experience unprecedented boom through the construction of various cities with the Ravi city. “The Prime Minister’s personal interest will help project to start very soon.”
Managing Director (MD) Saiban Associated Iqbal Zafar Nizami said construction industry will achieve new levels of prosperity as he envisaged planned settlements in the city. “This project would inspire other developers to follow the suit that may result in well planned town.”
He hoped that Ravi Riverfront project would also discourage the ‘Qabza Mafia’ and provide an affordable and respectable dwelling facility to people with security of their investment.