Tuesday, 27 January 2015

LDA to convert agriculture land into residential areas

Instead of addressing the civic and urban issues of provincial metropolis, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has decided to convert agricultural boundary of the historical city of Lahore into residential areas, which may become an environmental and urban disaster in future.
The move, if completed, will increase the hot zones in Lahore, which is already facing immense pressure of urbanization and commercialization for the past many years. Change of land use especially agricultural land into residential areas will deface the city besides causing severe environmental issues because more houses means more vehicles, more commercial areas, cutting of trees, etc.
Secondly, the move will also damage the supply line of essential vegetables, milk and chicken to the metropolitan city because majority of the poultry farms, milk production and vegetables are produced in the agriculture land around the city.
It means that if the LDA convert this precious agricultural land into residential zones then the production vegetables, milk and poultry products will be shifted to other cities and its prices will automatically increase and the ultimate burden will fall on citizens. Sources in LDA revealed that conversion of agricultural land into residential areas is the brain child of LDA’s Metropolitan Planning department. The sources said in 2004, LDA’s Metropolitan Department notified a master plan for Lahore (2004-2021) in which it clearly define residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural areas of the city.
They said the LDA’s Metropolitan Planning department has identified a project area comprising GT Road, BRB Canal, Hadyara Drain, Badian Road, Khaira Distributiory, Burki Road and Shalimar Link Road where all agricultural land will be converted to residential zones. The sources maintained that LDA needs to hold a public hearing before issuing a final notification and to fulfill this legal requirement, LDA’s Metropolitan Department has planned to hold a public hearing at Committee Room of LDA head office on January 29, 2015. The sources said holding a public hearing in committee room is just to fulfill the legal requirement because general public is not allowed to enter the LDA head office building without the consent or invitation and secondly the committee room is just for 20/30 persons. Sources said if the LDA is serious in getting public opinion over this project, it should hold a public hearing at a public place or at a hotel or any other such venue where citizens can come without any invitation and restriction.
On the other hand, civil society of Lahore is sharpening their swords to take LDA head on over this issue. Lahore Bachao Tehreek, Conservation Society and many other bodies have called a joint session to discuss the issue and plan a line of action to counter LDA and to stop it from kicking off this project, which they think will change the map of the historical city.
Seeking anonymity, a senior official of Environmental Protection Department (EPD) Punjab said LDA cannot change use of land without the consultation of EPD and other concerned departments. He said so far, LDA had not contacted EPD at any forum either for consultation or for approval.
Imrana Tiwana of Lahore Bachaoo Tehreek (LBT) said the civil society of Lahore has expressed serious reservations over this project and they will counter it at all forums. She said agricultural land is the earth cover of the city and it must be protected. Change of earth cover will result in hot zones, which will put adverse impacts on the environment as well as the already depleting underground water level of the provincial capital.
“Change in agricultural land to residential use will definitely affects the ecosystem and socio-economic conditions,” she said adding instead of turning agricultural land into residential, the LDA should promote integrating urban agriculture in city planning, supporting food projects and promoting innovative forms of multi-functional agriculture.
“Urbanization of cities always resulted in loss of agricultural land throughout the world and always result in a serious problem of reduced food production. The protection of agricultural land from unplanned development is essential to maintain the future productivity and efficiency of land,” said Shahid Imam, a senior citizen.
Kamil Khan Mumtaz, a renowned vocalist of social issues said this is an urgent call for all the civil society as rich agricultural land is being converted for luxury housing on the cost of the needs of homeless.
The scribe tried to contact LDA’s Director General Ahad Khan Cheema but neither his phone call nor text message was responded.

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