As the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Punjab pushes forward with its two flagship projects in the provincial capital of River Ravi City and Central Business District, the construction of the remaining two sections to complete the southern loop of Lahore Ring Road is awaiting its approval since March.
According to sources, the provincial government was reminded the third time since March that the commencement of work on the third southern loop (SL3) was only an approval away.
These sources said the SL3 was an 8km-long project from Raiwind Road to Maraka on Multan Road that as per earlier estimates was to be completed at a cost of Rs10 billion. He said a section of the loop would pass through a housing society of an influential property baron. The sources expressed apprehension that this might be the reason behind the delay by the government in the project’s approval.
The construction of the section of the road has been delayed since 2016 because of court orders. The sources said that there was no court order against the execution of the most important road project of Lahore since March but the government was continuing to look the other way.
SL3 and SL4 are the two remaining sections of Lahore Ring Road Southern Loop, that when completed would allow motorists to travel around the city.
It has reportedly been estimated that the citizens travelling on almost 50,000 vehicles daily would benefit from the completion of the project.
The sources said that in addition to written reminders, the Lahore Ring Road Authority (LRRA) had also raised the matter during two meetings. The government has already paid for land that caused a dispute between the LRRA and the real estate developer two years back.
An operation to retrieve the land was carried out in October 2018 under the supervision of divisional commissioner Muhammad Mujtaba.
An official said the matter had been brought to the notice of the prime minister and chief minister.
As per official documents, the National Logistics Cell (NLC) won the contract for the construction of SL3 was to be given the possession of the land by the end of last year. The NLC entered into a concession agreement with the LRRA on June 13 last year, after which the LRRA had to provide it the land for the construction of the project.
The NLC wrote to the authority in this regard four times on July 29, August 4, August 31 and September 4. The sources said that as per the law the LRRA could not force the NLC to take up the project now, even if the government granted the permission. However, the organisation has not conveyed the possibility to the government in writing.
The sources said that if the cost is revised, the authorities would have to start afresh with the bidding process. The cost of SL3 was initially estimated at Rs10 billion, while the SL4, a 17km long section of the planned road between Maraka on Multan Road and Nazar Labana on M3 Motorway was estimated to be completed at a cost of about Rs23 billion.
The official said the project would allow heavy traffic coming from the south to travel towards Kasur without entering Lahore. It would also save people traveling between Ferozepur, Raiwind and Multan roads from entering the busy routes of Lahore. However, the government does not appear interested in approving the completion of the road.
LRRA Chairman and Lahore Commissioner Usman Ahmed, who had termed the SL3 project as the need of the hour in May, was not available for comments despite repeated attempts. The special assistant to the chief minister on information was also not available for comments.
Provincial Housing and Urban Development Minister Mian Mehmoodur Rashid said, when contacted, that he was not aware of the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2021.
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