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LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the ground-breaking of Ravi Riverfront Urban Development project Tuesday and expressed optimism that overseas Pakistanis will make the biggest investment in this planned city, which will be equipped with all the modern facilities including centers for information and technology and education.

"The government will provide the basic infrastructure in this new city project while the rest of the city will be raised from the investment," the PM added. "People at home and the international level are evincing interest in this mega project."

Emphasising that it was important to dream big to achieve great things in life, the premier said: "Standing here I feel like the Naya Pakistan that we dream of, I can see it today." He added that the vision of 'Naya Pakistan' is to lift the people out of poverty. For this purpose, we have started the country's biggest ever poverty alleviation Ehsaas program in form of Panagahs. Our focus is to improve the standards of these facilities. He also mentioned that the people are always questioning where the Naya Pakistan is, but it must be understood that when past rulers left a country deep in debt, belt-tightening measures have to be pursued and tough times as a consequence are only natural. "This does not mean that you diminish the scope of your dreams," he said.

The PM also mentioned about Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest, and said that it is the dream that takes people far. "Do not judge a person by what he is but what he aspires to be," he said.

He said, "Our thinking is that when we come into power, we make our sugar mills, establish factories, make money and purchase homes in London and that's the extent of it."

The premier said that big thinkers are people like Mahathir Mohammad who made a new city in Malaysia and it is worth seeing. "Any big achievement always starts out as a dream," he said.

Stating that building a new city will not be easy and obstacles will come in its way, the PM directed the provincial government that there should not be any delay in the execution of this project and the federal government will fully support the provincial government in this project.

He said there will also be affordable housing in the city to accommodate the poor people. "We are also extending loans on low interest rates so that the salaried class, labourers and low income groups could own their houses," the premier said.

The PM said he learnt about the Ravi project and how it had been planned since long before. "I know why it did not succeed. Because the people who had envisioned it, did not have their country as their number one priority. Their number one priority was amassing their own wealth," he said.

Imran Khan said about 40 percent of Lahore is made up of informal settlements. "Because we never thought of where the poor people will live. That is because Pakistan's mindset has always been an elitist one. And that is why we were unable to achieve our potential. Because all our decisions are catered to the elite. We have to see that this is Lahore's need and it is Pakistan's need."

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said the plan of this project was envisaged seven years ago but the past rulers could not start it because the project aimed at bringing real changes in public lives were not their priorities.

The River Ravi, which once was a beautiful identity of the historic city of Lahore, has turned into a filthy Nullah but no one has cared about it. Similarly, the underground water level has been drastically lowered in Lahore, he added. The CM disclosed that the government will develop a 46-kilometre long lake in the bed of River Ravi. It is an environment-friendly project and more than six million planted trees will considerably reduce environmental pollution. Along with it, a barrage and wastewater treatment plant will also be installed for water and the rainwater will be stored in the lake, he added. The lake will not only improve the aqua system of the river but the underground water level will also be recharged. Around one billion litres water of the lake will help recharge underground water table and this will also result in improving the climate.

The CM stated that 12 specialized cities will be developed in Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project spreading over 46 kilometers and 90 per cent locally manufactured material will be utilized in it. This project will strengthen the economy besides creating thousands of new job opportunities. This project will be an avant-garde initiative for policymakers of the future, he said, and added that an autonomous authority has been set up which will formulate its rules and regulations independently and no one could interfere in it. Work will be done speedily on this project in the next three years and a new city will be developed, he added.

Moreover, the PM also held informal meetings with the Governor and CM and discussed matters concerning affairs of the Punjab government, Motorway gang rape case and other matters of important nature. The PM also chaired a meeting on law & order and stressed ensuring projection of life and property of citizens.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020