LAHORE: A full bench of Lahore High Court will pass verdict on the Signal Free Corridor project on Friday (today). The court recorded all arguments on Thursday.
After the arguments ended, the bench, headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, announced that they would announce judgment on the case on Friday at 10am. The court had earlier passed a stay order on the Rs1.5 billion project.
The bench recorded arguments of petitioners Kamil Khan Mumtaz and Imrana Tiwana.
Mumtaz said the project would only exacerbate problems faced by the masses instead of providing them relief. “It would also increase the mileage of motorists and create problems for pedestrians.” He said the number of private vehicles was increasing by the day and the government was only facilitating that increase. “This step will encourage an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads.” He said a permanent solution to the problem lay not in widening roads but to provide public transport to the masses. He said after shelter and food, the most pressing need of the masses was health and transport. The government’s policies have, unfortunately, put both of them out of the reach of the masses. He said a solution to control the traffic problem was to make policies that would minimise the number of vehicles on roads rather than initiating such projects which would also have a negative impact on the environment.
Tiwana said the government could consider alternatives to the project. Signal-free corridors are considered a failed solution to traffic congestion all over the world, she said. Overhead bridges are of no use to women carrying children or the disabled. She said once the project was completed, motorists trying to reach Sherpao Bridge from the Main Boulevard in Gulberg would have to take a left turn from Fawara Chowk and a U-turn from the Zafar Ali Road drain. “What of footpaths in the city? What of the pedestrians?”
Petitioners’ counsel Salman Akram Raja said motorists travelling from China Chowk would not be able to go straight to the Lahore College for Women University. Instead, they would have to take a U-turn from the Race Course Park and go to Qurtaba Chowk to be able to reach the university. “This project will only add to the people’s miseries instead of alleviating them.”
Justice Mansoor remarked that the authorities had asked them to drop objections against the project since it is “a simple development project”.
The judge asked a representative of the Lahore Development Authority regarding the mechanism of prioritising projects before executing them. The representative said development projects were prioritised based on number of public complaints, suggestions from politicians and recommendations from the government.
The judge asked why they had made the project a priority. The representative answered that several traders on Jail Road and employees of three medical facilities located on the road had asked them in 2013 to do something to control traffic on the road.
Justice Ayesha asked him if the LDA had a mechanism to receive recommendations and complaints from the public. He said that the LDA had a one-window operation for this purpose. He said, this year, they were working on a similar project on GT Road, from Ravi Bridge to Rana Town, which could not get priority last year. He said the LDA had scheduled another meeting to discuss 15 similar development projects which would be initiated next year. Justice Mansoor then asked him to present a list of the projects in court.
The court was holding proceedings on five identical petitions challenging the Signal-Free Corridor project and LDA’s authority in carrying out the project in the absence of local government bodies.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2015.
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