Despite receiving a mixed response to the Metrobus project in Lahore, the Punjab government is barrelling forward with several other developmental projects, without pausing for a moment to appraise their handiwork. If they had, perhaps they would have second guessed the feasibility of their plans. The same haste that was displayed when constructing the Lahore project is being exhibited in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi section. With several more projects, the recent ones being in Lahore in the pipeline, the impact of this construction will be significant, especially on the environment.
The Islamabad section plans to eliminate acres of greenbelts to make way for the dedicated bus road feature that is the cornerstone of the Islamabad “master plan”. Clean, unpolluted air and aesthetically pleasing, uncongested spaces are apparently low government priority. Despite being mandatory under the Environment Protection Act 1997, the government only sought an Environmental Impact Assessment report (EIA) when the Chief Justice of Pakistan took notice of the issue. Furthermore, the responsibility of preparing this report was handed over to National Engineering Services of Pakistan (Nespak), a firm that is a design consultant of the project and heavily invested in it; unsurprisingly, the report wholeheartedly endorsed the project.
Similarly, projects in Lahore are rushed through. The Sharif brothers have a flair for city planning, but only for the glorious parts, not the hard, necessary parts. The recent rainfall exposed Lahore’s inadequate drainage system, even in newly built areas. Similarly, ancient trees are cut down and the loss is papered over by placing a few potted plants along the projects. Wide roads and proud bridges can be seen, and used as electoral fodder, while necessary and pragmatic concerns such as the environment, drainage, sewage, waste management and maintenance, the lifeblood of a modern metropolis, are forgotten, just because they are not visible, not glorious enough.