Pakistan

Present RUDA master plan till Sept 29: LHC directs Punjab govt

Justice Shahid Karim of Lahore High Court directed the Punjab government to present the master plan of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project (RRUDP) till September 29.

The judge directed the government to produce the master plan or else it would face the consequences.

On Friday, a provincial government law officer informed that the master plan had been made in June 2021.

The judge observed that had there been a master plan of the project, the lawyers of the provincial government or the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) would have produced it along with their written statements.

Judge also expressed displeasure over the Punjab government for starting the process of land acquisition much before the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project.

Petitioner counsel submitted that the RUDA itself admitted in its reply that the EIA was still pending before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and yet land had been acquired.

The judge observed that in the matter case the process had been taking place in a haphazard manner and the respondents including RUDA and the government were not recognizing the fact that there was an elephant in the room.

 On behalf of RUDA a reply was submitted that the acquisition of land was very much within the purview of public purposes. It stated that the RUDA had been created to evolve policy and programmes for the purposes of housing including but not limited to traffic, transportation, health, education, water supply, sewerage, rain age and solid waste disposal.

Reply further stated that although the issue of smog is dealt with by the Punjab Disaster Management Authority, the RUDA was going to rehabilitate water aquifer in the dying river Ravi and creating a huge water reservoir of 270 billion litters through lakes and barrages at the edge of a mega city like Lahore. It stated that this sole step would also help to curtail the smog and it was also aimed at upgrading the environment by way of plantation of more than six million trees beside the urban forest.

It also stated that the reservations shown by the petitioners against the project are misconceived and based upon mere apprehensions, so it should be dismissed. 

The main petitions against the project were filed by Advocates Sheraz Zaka, Ahmad Rafay Alam, and others on behalf of the farmers. The council challenged the mode and manner of the land acquisition proceedings undertaken by RUDA for the project. 

Counsel submitted that the land acquisition collector, despite a protest by the landowners, passed 18 awards on a single day amounting to multiple billion rupees. Counsel had also challenged the legality of forceful acquisitions of land for commercial purposes under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Judge had already granted a stay against Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project.

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