The Punjab government is planning yet more development work on Canal Bank Road, putting it on another collision course with local environmental groups who have legally challenged previous road-widening projects.
The Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) is to soon send a proposal to the Planning and Development Board to build nine u-turns on Canal Bank Road and a roundabout at Raiwind Road at a total cost of Rs900 million, The Express Tribune has learnt.
It will also propose that Canal Bank Road be widened between Doctors’ Hospital and Canal View, at a cost of over Rs700 million. The government only completed a Rs1.5 billion project to add an extra lane to Canal Bank Road between The Mall and Doctors’ Hospital in early 2012.
Environmental groups including the Lahore Conservation Society and the Lahore Bachao Tehreek had moved the Supreme Court against the project, but the court ruled in October 2011 that the cost to the environment was outweighed by the benefit in improved traffic flow.
Tepa officials say that the latest proposal for u-turns and road-widening between Doctors’ Hospital and Canal View is necessary because traffic problems on the road persist.
Members of the Lahore Bachao Tehreek said that they would oppose further development on the road. They said that the government had poured billions of rupees into Canal Bank Road and still failed to resolve the traffic problems there, so there was no guarantee that spending yet more money on widening and building u-turns would work.
The Supreme Court had in its October 2011 verdict also instructed the government to treat the green belt along the Canal as a heritage park, and the government passed the Lahore Canal Heritage Park Act in 2013.
The act outlaws construction and the cutting down of trees at the green belt, but allows the government to go ahead with it if it obtains approval from the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA).
Tepa is to propose that four u-turns be built on Canal Bank Road, two each 500 metres in both directions from The Mall intersection, on each side of the road. Consequently, right turns from The Mall onto Canal Bank Road would be prohibited, on both sides of the intersection. Vehicles intending to go right would have to go left onto Canal Bank Road, travel 500 metres and then take the u-turn to get on the opposite side. These two-lane u-turns would require the cutting down of over a hundred trees.
A roundabout would be built on the junction of Rawind Road and the road from Nazria Pakistan Avenue, while three u-turns would be built at the junction of Multan Road and Canal Bank Road beneath the Thokar Niaz Beg Flyover. Two three-lane u-turns would be built some 100 metres from the junction on the Canal View side, while a three-lane u-turn would be built 100 metres from the junction on the Bahria Town side. Another two u-turns facing opposite directions would be built around 800 metres from the Thokar Niaz Beg Flyover in order to ease the burden on the Doctors’ Hospital turning.
Tepa Chief Engineer Khalid Alvi said that the u-turns would reduce the traffic load on the Canal Bank Road junctions and this was the cheapest way to do so. He said that building u-turns at some points on Ferozepur Road had worked really well in improving traffic flow and the u-turns on Canal Bank Road would do the same.
Regarding environmental concerns, he said that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report would be completed before construction work begins. He said that it would soon be sent to the Planning and Development Board for approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2013.
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