LAHORE: Nearly 1.4 million people will be left homeless in wake of a Punjab government plan to vacate 1.2million kanals of land adjacent to River Ravi to construct a national park, disclosed a revenue department official.
The area spanning five major tehsils include 216 villages, 1,000 mosques, 200 schools, 200 graveyards and 140,438 acre land currently used for agricultural purposes – will be demolished to give the country’s its first national park – an initiative taken by the PML-N chief and former premier Nawaz Sharif in 1998.
The chief minister has devised the revenue department to chalk out a plan regarding the shelved project as it will help promote tourism and improve the country’s international image, stated the official. He further said the project was undertaken to provide better recreational facilities to people and to improve the environment.
However, the environment protection agency refuted the claims and proposed abandoning the project. An EPA official told The Express Tribune that the industrial establishment/expansion, planning housing schemes and dumping city’s waste in Ravis water is already challenging for the environment departments and hence, the government should opt for a more ‘available and spacious’
The revenue department has engaged the city district government Lahore (CDGL) in chalking the desired area and negotiating a price for purchasing the land for the project. He stated that the Ravi River tribunaries at Narang Mandi, Ravi Syphon and village Maraka are higky polluted and the departments is busy tackling the issue while the revenue department and the CDGL are intervening and making their job harder through this proposal.
A petition has also been filed with the Lahore High Court (LHC) to refrain the Punjab Government and orders have been issued by Justice Umar Atta Bandial to the concerned DCO Revenue and commissioner Lahore division to submit reply stating their justifications regarding the project. In response, the revenue department has issued a notification under section 4 of the Land Acquistion act 1894 and is likely to acquire the land, stated another revenue dept official Irfan Nawaz Memon.
Meanwhile, farmers associations local leader Haji Mukhtar Ahmed held a press conference and announced sit-in against the Punjab Government for taking up the overdue project on April 10. Earlier, during Punjab chief minister Chaudhary Pervez Elahi’s regime, the Punjab government tried acquiring the land to make a lake near River Ravi and a recreational sports area but the UAE-funded project was suspended following strong condemnation from the opposition and outrageous protests from the locals.