Lahore’s civil society has welcomed the Lahore High Court’s decision to halt construction on the government’s riverbank development project until an environmental study is conducted.
In a statement released Monday, the signatories, which included lawyers and environmental activists in Lahore, stated that the right to a clean and healthy environment is the fundamental right of every Pakistani individual.
“The Lahore High Court Order has ensured our rights as citizens are properly considered, and the rights of the environment respected,” it added.
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On December 30, the court passed an order restraining the state-run Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) from commencing work on the Ravi Riverfront Development Project until an environmental impact assessment of the project is carried out.
The Ravi Riverfront
The project, inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan late last year, will include urban development along the 33 km long stretch on both sides of the Ravi river.
In what is being described as the “first of its kind” undertaking, the Ravi Riverfront aims to “address the needs of Lahore’s growing urban population” by providing housing and economic opportunities to the people of Lahore, noted the Lahore Development Authority on its website.
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To facilitate the development, the Punjab assembly passed a law in August to establish the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) and conferred it wide and unfettered powers to develop the Project, the civil society adds in its statement.
Soon after being formed, the RUDA began construction without seeking approval from the Environmental Protection Agency in Punjab, even though the Punjab Environment Protection Act, 1997, requires projects “likely to cause adverse environmental impact” to obtain environmental approval.
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In its statement, the civil society has called for the Ravi floodplain to be declared a National Park protected by law.
“The ecosystem of the River Ravi Basin has been irreparably damaged by the construction of storage dams in India and by the untreated discharge of polluted water into it by the cities of Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala, and Faisalabad,” the statement adds, “ We believe any project along the banks of the Ravi should seek to revitalise its ecosystem.”