Plans for building a Ravi dream project with Dubai-style high rise buildings, alongside what was once a river now reduced to a sewage dump, is nothing but a sugar-coated opportunity for land grabbing. Almost 102,074 acres of green agriculture land, including 80,000 acres of rich farmland producing much-needed fruits and vegetables for Lahore, are planned to be converted into a concrete jungle.
Whilst the developers portray it as an eco-friendly project, environmental scientists disagree. Since there is no water in the Ravi riverbed, the plan envisages building dams near Sialkot on 1,000 acres of prime rice growing land to store monsoon rain water to fill the dry river.
The River Ravi Project, first conceived in 2006, was shelved because of cost factors and its negative impact on the environment. The present plan is to emulate a Dubai-style luxury housing scheme on 90% of the land acquired, with 10% for low-cost housing. As it is, hundreds of thousands of acres of green agriculture land in Lahore, towards the border area, have been transformed. Hardly 40% of it is covered with residences; the rest is just empty plots with streets, roads and well-lit street lights, being sold and resold as assets or files.
Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned a modern democratic welfare state for all citizens, each enjoying equal rights and opportunities with security of life and property, but unfortunately the powerful black economy has made it a haven for real estate developers enjoying endless tax amnesty schemes.
Malik Tariq Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15h, 2021.