LAHORE: Lack of information about land acquisition and unfair compensation procedures were the most common concerns raised by property owners along the route of the Orange Line Metro Train project during a public hearing on its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report on Tuesday.
They said they were still unsure about the exact location of the areas that would be acquired for the project.
Khalida Khaliq, a Samanabad resident, said that initially a portion of her five-marla house was marked for acquisition. However, she said a project team had visited her house a few days ago and marked the entire house for the purpose. Khaliq said a land acquisition officer had yet to respond to her inquiries about the matter. “I have visited the office several times to seek a response but no one there seems informed about it,” she said. She said the Orange Line train would improve public transport in the city but the government should ensure transparency in the execution of the project.
Muhammad Ali Tirmizi, a teacher at the National College of Arts, said he lived in a neighbourhood along the route proposed for the train. He said acquisition of land at the deputy commissioner (DC) rates would be unfair to property owners. He said in some places the DC rate was as low as 20 percent of the market value of the property. He said the DC rate was calculated on the basis of prices registered with the Revenue Department over a three year period. The registered prices did not reflect the market value of the property, he added.
Property owners from Lakshmi Chowk, Daroghawala and Ali Town raised similar concerns. They said the government had yet to clarify the procedure for claiming compensation.
Khalid Alavi, chief engineer for the project, said his office was open to anyone who wanted information on the project. He said with recent revisions in the project design ticketing stations along the elevated portion of the track would also be set up on elevated platforms. He said less land would now be required for the project.
MPA Waheed Gul, a member of the committee formed by the chief minister to oversee the construction the project, said that he would ensure that property owners affected by the construction of the track were compensated fairly.
He asked the Lahore Development Authority to set up camps at points where ticketing stations were to be constructed. “You should display the comprehensive project plan containing the exact route and stations information at these camps,” he said. Alavi accepted the suggestion and said that he would ensure that such camps were set up within a week.
Impact on historical sites
Concerns about the impact of construction on historical monuments along the route were also raised during the hearing. Architect Ali Raza said the route would pass near the Shalamar Gardens. “The gardens were recently removed from the UNESCO list of endangered historical sites. The project team does not seem to have identified any measures to prevent damage to the site,” he said.
Raza said the construction of an elevated track near the gardens would diminish its view.
An Archeology Department representative urged the LDA to take the department on board about its plan about the project. He said no information about construction work near heritage sites along the route had yet been shared with the department.
Nasimur Rehman Shah, a deputy director at the Environment Protection Department, said a proposal was under consideration to shift the track underground in the vicinity of Shalamar Gardens.
The hearing did not feature much discussion on the EIA report. Rehman briefly outlined the report and assured the audience that measures would be taken to reduce the effect of air pollution from construction activity on residents of nearby areas. However, he said these measures would not be able to prevent air pollution entirely.
Rehman said no construction camp would be set up within a kilometre of residential areas. He added that the construction site would be isolated using plastic curtains.
He said that 6,200 trees would be planted as a replacement for the 620 trees along the route that would be cut during construction work.
Some people also questioned the need for the project. They said the funds allocated for the project should be spent on improvement of city roads and health and education infrastructure in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2015.