LAHORE: Like other cosmopolitan cities of the world, the amorphous Lahore was faced with debilitating challenges of governance, inequality, technology, resources, transportation and environment for which the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development (RRFUD) project was seen as a solution since 1947.
The previous governments had put the project off on one pretext or the other as they lacked the will, the vision and an honest intent to address the ills of a sprawling metropolis, but the mercurial leadership of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) decided to save the city from the demon of overpopulation, poverty, and ecological disequilibrium through the development of a planned new city of the RRF. But great feats need leaders and visionaries to be accomplished, and the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development (RRFUD) project, after remaining in the doldrums for years, was in search of a leader when Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to save this city from existential challenges and give it a new life by embracing the needs of change besides making it an economic giant.
Engr. Imran Zafar of NESPAK, who has worked closely on the project, said the RRFUD project will rub shoulders with the cities like Dubai, adding that it has been planned on the Dubai model, and it will take some time in its fruition. He said the only difficulty was to initiate the gigantic project as the previous government had shelved it, but Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken the decision to build a future city in Pakistan.
About the housing capacity in the new city, Engr. Imran Zafar said so huge is the project of the new city that the whole population of the city can be accommodated in the Ravi Riverfront city.
"Twelve new cities, including Residential City, Medical City, Downtown, Commercial Hub, Urban Farms and Miscellaneous Use City, will be developed in the first phase with Innovation City spanning over 1370 acres in the second phase while, the third phase, Knowledge City, Sports City and Eco City on a land area of 14000 acres will be completed," he remarked, adding that a total land area of 103,271 acres will be acquired from public and government control for the development of the RRFUD.
Engr. Imran Zafar said the Ravi Riverfront will be developed in three phases, and, in the initial phase, a lake covering an area of 46 kilometers, six wastewater treatment plants, three barrages and urban forest would be developed during the first three years. The town planning expert, responding to a question, said provision of water for drinking and irrigation is the top-most priority for which wastewater and surface water treatment plants will be installed.
Responding to another question, he said development of the lake will purge the Ravi from domestic and industrial waste and provide 271 billion liters of water, adding that the wastewater treatment plants would help treat 2.4 billion liters of water daily, and this water will irrigate 75,000 acres of land. He said the new cities will add to the grandeur of historic Lahore and set it apart from other mega-cities of the world. "Populating new cities is in line with the sayings of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.) who desired to build new cities," said Engr. Imran Zafar, adding that the business community is all praise for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for its futuristic vision.
About the advantages of the RRFUD, he said the development of a new city will definitely decrease the burden on Lahore and would improve civic amenities, adding that the present city, which is centuries old, had sprawled into a messy housing facility over the passage of time.
Provincial Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment, Mian Aslam Iqbal, said the RRFUD project is foreseen as a game changer from the economic, social, urban development and environmental aspects in the millennia-old historic city of Lahore.
"The RRFUD project has been envisaged to overcome inequality, environmental threats like floods, besides generating resources like water, food and energy, and ensuring good-governance while it will ease down pressure on the existing city," he said.
To a query, he said it was a historic development that Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the RRFUD project in the epoch-making month of August when Pakistan came into being, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan had stood true to his manifesto of making new Pakistan from the decaying edifice of a corruption-ridden political system.
The minister for investments said the project will generate enormous financial activity through creation of new jobs, housing facilities, clean environment and futuristic facilities. He further said the project was a step towards partial fulfillment of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's election manifesto.
The Punjab industries and commerce minister said the RRFUD project will usher in an era of economic boon through immense business activity worth billions of rupees, adding that the project is also expected to create millions of new jobs, improve water resources, enhance living standards and provide a cleaner and greener environment for the generations to come.
About the ambitious urban development projects, Mian Aslam Iqbal said RRFUD project is close to the heart of Prime Minister Imran Khan who has a clear vision about a new Lahore which rubs shoulders with the modern cities of the world. To a query, he said the new city model, under the RRFUD project, has been envisaged keeping in view the problems like shortage of clean drinking water, insufficient housing facilities, environmental hazards, ill-planned business areas, and lack of sporting facilities.
Elaborating on the importance of 'Surface Water Treatment Plants', he said the plant will decrease dependency of the Lahorites on the ground water by 50 percent as 2.4 billion liters of safe drinking water will be produced from the canal water after treatment. On the finances, he said the RRFUD project will be completed with an estimated cost of 2000 billion rupees with financing to be met though Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), Joint ventures (JVs) and Private Finance Initiative (PFI), multilateral loan, budgetary grants and developer financing.
To a query, he said water is basic need of human population and industry and the city has been planned to meet water needs of Lahore till 2045, adding that the Ravi River will be channeled for 46 kilometers with 3280 ft in width and a wall height of 33 feet.
He said three barrages will be built to attain the water level for the riverfront. About the environment friendly city, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan feels the pulse of changing times and has launched the Billion Tree Project to make Pakistan rich in green areas and protect it from future environmental hazards.