“The citizen’s were not consulted before starting the Metro Bus Service (MBS) projectt,” Tehreem Fatima from the Punjab Urban Resource Centre said on Saturday.
Fatima was presenting the findings of a PURC team at a forum hosted by the organisation at its office titled ‘Rapid Bus Transit System: A Citizen’s Persepective.’ The team included Ali Sarwar and was supervised by Tariq Lateef.
Fatimae said it was a case of the provincial government doing the task of a city government. “A large chunk of the province’s resources has been allocated to the city of Lahore… this can be questioned,” she said.
“The chief minister has sold the MBS project as a ‘unique, pro-people project…to bring about revolutionary change,’” she said.
She said numerous promises had not been met and the details of the project had continued to change.
She said the first cost estimate provided for the project was Rs18 billion. It now stood at Rs32 billion. She said the original design was a 32km ground track. However, it was changed later to a 27km ground track . However, it was changed later 8km of elevated track. “The completion date for the project, too, has continued to change,” she said.
She said, “All property acquired for the project was to be compensated at market rate...but stakeholders complained that property worth Rs3.5 million per kanal on Ravi Road had been compensated at Rs1.3 million per kanal.”
She said lack of transparency around the project could be judged from the fact that Turkey had promised to gift 100 buses for the project at the inaugural ceremony. “Later it was learnt that the buses were left-hand drive models built in 1990. The government was asked to pay for any improvements it wanted and the ‘offer’ was dropped,” she said.
She said the number of buses to run on the route had also been reduced from 130 to 70 and now to 45.
She also said measures taken to ensure safety during the construction were inadequate. She said a worker had died from an electric shock and there had been several accidents due to the uncovered trenches. “Working conditions are poor. It was alleged workers on section two (Kalma Chowk to Qartba Chowk) went unpaid for two months,” she said.
She said there were complaints that the project divided neighbourhoods and had affected businesses.
Amir Butt also from the PURC presented a comparison of three Bus Rapid Transit Projects; in Bogota in Colombia, Istanbul in Turkey, and Ahmedabad in India.
“The Bogota model t uses simple medians to separate the buslanes from other traffic,” he said.
He said the MBS in Ahmadabad introduced in 2006, had cut vehicular pollution dramatically so that the third most polluted city before the project now stood 68th.
Hafiz Rashid from the PURC said there was opposition to the use of metal and concrete barriers.
Imdad Hussain from PURC said that an elevated track did not make sense. “
He said the project was wasteful and the government should have experimented first with a bus lane.
The participants agreed that there was also a lack of transparency regarding where the funds for the MBS project had come from.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2012.
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