LAHORE: Senator Ali Zafar explained Friday to the Lahore High Court how the Riverfront Urban Development Project was environment-friendly and would ensure Lahore clean air and conservation. It also included a huge forest.
In his final arguments for the Ravi Urban Authority, (Ruda), Mr Zafar argued the Punjab Assembly had created Ruda to be an authority over a certain area adjacent to Lahore so that the growing population could live in a planned city.
He stated that the project would ensure compliance to all environmental protocols in combating climate change. He noted that the project contained a mechanism for water conservation and groundwater recharge, flood protection, and innovative approaches to reduce pollution.
Barrister Zafar defended the acquisition land for the project and argued that, according to many judgments of the superior court, the acquisition was valid for the purpose housing projects or other developments.
He stated that Ruda’s land acquisition proceedings were legal. Ruda claimed that petitions against him were filed by certain vested interest groups and private housing plans who did not want to see the planned city come into being.
He also rejected the argument of petitioners that the Ravi Urban Development Act2020 had stripped the power of the local government. He argued any local government that had any objections to the master plan could contest it before the court.
The counsel also defended the acquisition of agricultural lands for the project and relied on judgements from the courts to support his argument. He also stated that the land would not have to be acquired compulsorily, but that people were offered compensation in the form of plots and monetary compensation.
Ruda could be asked by the court to increase forested areas and create a buffer zone of greenery to protect the air and environment in Lahore. Ruda said he was willing to appoint consultants to conduct another environment study to ensure that all environmental aspects are taken care of.
Justice Shahid Karim adjourned hearing until December 20 to hear arguments from the advocate general of Punjab, and other counsel.
The judge in this case had already stopped the land acquisition process for the project because it did not meet the legal requirements or environmental laws.
Published in Dawn, December 18, 2021