Kalma Chowk flyover: Environmental groups to continue campaign

Published: May 4, 2011
Construction work on the Kalma Chowk flyover continues. PHOTOS: EXPERSS/IJAZ MAHMOOD, FARHAN LASHARI

Construction work on the Kalma Chowk flyover continues. PHOTOS: EXPERSS/IJAZ MAHMOOD, FARHAN LASHARI

Construction work on the Kalma Chowk flyover continues. PHOTOS: EXPERSS/IJAZ MAHMOOD, FARHAN LASHARI Construction work on the Kalma Chowk flyover continues. PHOTOS: EXPERSS/IJAZ MAHMOOD, FARHAN LASHARI

Environmental groups say they will continue to campaign against the Kalma Chowk flyover and underpass despite a failed legal challenge, as the project will harm the environment and is not in the public interest in any case.

The Lahore Conservation Society and other environmental NGOs have already challenged the project in the Lahore High Court, though their plea was dismissed as the flyover and underpass were deemed in the public interest to ease traffic congestion on Ferozepur Road.

The court did not uphold the law when it allowed construction without considering the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, says Erum Aftab of the Lahore Conservation Society. The EIA report, conducted by the National Engineering Services of Pakistan (NESPAK), was only presented in court after construction began.

According to the Pakistan Environment Protection Act, any project costing over Rs50 million must include an EIA report. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) then must issue a no objection certificate (NOC) before construction can begin. The EPD says it cannot issue one until there is a public hearing where stakeholders can raise concerns about the EIA report. That hearing is due on May 6.

Aftab and Rafay Alam, an environmental activist and lawyer representing the environmental groups in court, said they would raise several questions at the May 6 hearing. They said the project was a poor use of scarce resources that would be better spent on developing a public transport system.

Alam said 40 per cent of commuters are pedestrians and 22 per cent use public buses. Neither of these groups, which together form a majority of commuters, will benefit from the flyover, he said, citing the preliminary findings of the Lahore Urban Transport Master Plan, a study being conducted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency which is to be released in less than nine months.

“It would have been wiser of the government to wait for the outcome of the study before going ahead with such construction,” Aftab says.

Alam said the government should consider a rapid mass rail transit system instead. In 2007, the Punjab government commissioned a report on the feasibility of such a project in Lahore. The report said that an overground-underground rail network would be the ideal transport solution for the city, he said.

“The consultants indicated that one of the lines of this proposed network would run along Ferozepur Road and another from Garden Town through Gulberg. These two lines were to intersect under Kalma Chowk where the feasibility proposed two underground stations. The construction of the overpass means that the proposed crossing at Kalma Chowk will no longer be suitable for mass transit,” he said.

Alam also said there was a conflict of interests since the project’s design engineers, Nespak, were also its EIA consultants. “They are charging a consultancy fee of 1.84 per cent of the project cost. Do you expect Nespak to give an objective assessment or alternative to construction of a flyover and an underpass?”

He said Nespak also provided both the design and the EIA report for the underpasses on The Canal from The Mall intersection to the Faisal Town intersection. He said there was no law explicitly requiring separate parties to do the design and the EIA report, but he would raise this issue at the May 6 hearing.

Sabir Khan, project director at the Communication and Works Department, said 35 of the 177 trees planted on Ferozepur Road around Model Town and the Canal would be cut for the flyover, but a quarter would be replanted by the Pakistan Horticulture Authority. He said Rs15 million of the Rs2.5 billion budget for construction of the underpass and flyover had been set aside for tree plantation following the construction phase.

The EIA report for the project states that 460 trees will be planted in four years time at an estimated cost of Rs268,640. Khan said no trees had been chopped and they would not until the final stage.

Aftab said some trees along Ferozepur Road had already been cut down in March. She had pictures showing trees being chopped down at night.

Khan said that sections of the flyover were being assembled at a site some 13km off Kasur Road and would be brought to Kalma Chowk when ready. This would reduce the dust and noise pollution at the chowk.

“No such measures were taken during the construction of any other underpass or flyover in the city,” Khan said.

EPD spokesman Naseemur Rahman said water sprinklers would be installed to settle dust during peak construction time.

He said construction work was being carried out during the day; people who live or work near Kalma Chowk are already used to the traffic noise, he said, and would find it bearable during the day.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2011.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (13)

  • Truth_Prevails
    May 4, 2011 - 9:34AM

    @Lahore Conservation Society and other environmental NGOs: Which world are you from? Or maybe, yes! you want people to know of your existence!
    Have you ever done one of your assessments on the polution caused by richshaws & others vehicles? No ofcourse you wouldn’t be makig any money out of it. If any public work is taking place, please let it proceed…PLEASE! Give us your exepertise in finding out solutions to existing environment issues/problems. Recommend

  • Sidra Humayun
    May 4, 2011 - 11:33AM

    thousands of rickshaws and trucks are producing smoke on ferozpur road and interior Lahore Is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) used to sleep most of the time??? Only tress are the issue for them cant they see other violations in city regarding environment. Give us a call we all will join you to plant more and many tress but avoid to interrupt this work. Thank you all. RegardsRecommend

  • A Suhail
    May 4, 2011 - 11:53AM

    Dear Truth_Prevails, instead of spending money on public transport, our government is spending 2.5% of Punjab’s budget to build a flyover which will only ease traffic for a minuscule segment of the society. Now ask yourself this question: Does it make sense to spend so much money on one portion of a road when in south punjab people die due to inadequate health facilities? Shouldnt this money be spent over there instead of here in Lahore? In the 90s billions were wasted to build underpasses on canal road to ease traffic. Well, has it eased traffic at canal road. The answer is a big no. We need more buses and a metro train system not more fly overs. Recommend

  • ba ha
    May 4, 2011 - 12:12PM

    ‘Depopulating Lahore and planting jungles is in the public interest”… Perhaps the Lahore Conservation Society should lug bicycle rickshaws for a day just to get their orientation straight. It’s ignorants like them who have stymied progress in Lahore over the last three decades. This flyover is necessary. Mass transit rail is necessary and anyone who stands in the way should be “railroaded” out of LahoreRecommend

  • Hina Shahid
    May 4, 2011 - 1:57PM

    Pleae find another solution for traffic problems like providing comfortable public transort (like Daewoo) cutting down trees or building fly overs or underpass is not in public interest at all…..Stop giving us lame excuses in the name of so called “Public Interest” and “Development” Recommend

  • wahab
    May 4, 2011 - 2:20PM

    so u like all the cues on Kalma chowk.. There are other environmental problems in Pak, much bigger ones.. Like release of dirty effluents from industries, and magrooves and bla bla… Focus on them and let the country developRecommend

  • Amna
    May 4, 2011 - 2:32PM

    The major drawback of our culture is that, if something wrong, nobody will wake and give
    the remarks, if something going positive way to help the common man, everybody stand
    up and raise the illogical objection without actual facts and figures.Recommend

  • Rabia
    May 4, 2011 - 2:41PM

    If some of tree will be chopped due to flyover it can be regrown some other places without
    any major cost and human resources activity can be get free of cost for plantation. People
    of all fields will get the benefit for this project through avoiding Traffic Jam that is normal routine in Klama chowk. Moreover environment department should focus on how to make free pollution environment rahter that create hurdle for ongoing project.Recommend

  • Dr. Adnan
    May 4, 2011 - 3:42PM

    Well 100% agree with the top 2 comments that EIA most of the time is sleeping they only raise voice when they are not getting a cut of the project investment … I want more flyovers underpasses wide roads, wide the PU’s Canal road so much congestion there! … Hypocritical people !Recommend

  • OJ
    May 4, 2011 - 4:33PM

    @Dr. Adnan:
    It was widely reported that Mr. Rafay Alam was the lawyer who spear headed the campaign to get the canal road widening project blocked through litigation….. Recommend

  • Andrea
    May 4, 2011 - 5:18PM

    The flyover is desperately needed to ease traffic congestion and most locals agree with its construction. Yes there should be efforts to keep greenery and trees in the city but perhaps they can replant or try to plant more trees along other venues to make up for the ones which will be removed. As for the Lahore Mass Transit System, the sooner it comes, the better for long term improvement of air quality and transport.Recommend

  • A Suhail
    May 4, 2011 - 11:08PM

    So I have a question for all my friends who are crying about congestion at Kalma Chowk. Do you guys think the fly over will result in a congestion free kalma chowk for the next 10 years. What if, and I am sure of it, the increase in number of cars in the next 10 years create more congestion at Kalma chowk, then what will we do? Build another fly over on top of the current fly over? When the civilized world is doing away with the concept of flyovers and under passes, we are building more of it. Look at the traffic in Los Angeles, the city of freeways, has the most congested roads in all over US. The county government over the years have built 605, 710, 405, 210, I-5 and many more freeways but the traffic keeps on getting worse there. NOw they regret not investing in a city wide metro system( there is a subway but it does not go every where) as the cost to build one is astronomical. Lets not make the same mistakes as the city of LA’s fathers did. Even Japanese can not get rid of traffic congestion supposedly the most advanced state in the world. We do not want Lahore to get to a point like Shanghai, where local government only allows cars with certain number to come on roads each day. Lets think for the future and stop this madness and waste of resources over one flyover so that a few spoiled kids can get to their homes a bit earlier. Why not use this money to build a much needed school or hospital in south Punjab. Recommend

  • khan
    May 6, 2011 - 10:20AM

    covered ways for our politician and other groups to earn money, today if the environmental athourities are offered the handsome amount, they will simply close their eyes, they are shouting not for our interests but their own.Recommend

More in Punjab