The Ravi Development Authority project is to save the city of Lahore, says Prime Minister Imran Khan. He called it inevitable while inaugurating it on Friday.
If we want to save Lahore, this project needs to be made, he said, adding that without it, Lahore would have to face water problems that Karachi is facing today.
“The pollution level in Lahore has surpassed the danger level which can impact the health of people,” he said.
The PM gave an example of drinking tap water when he was growing up in Lahore. He said the water was sweet. “No one ever imagined that we would need bottled water. Zaman Town, when I was growing up, was clean. There was no concept of pollution. The skies were clear,” he said.
He said it was a clean city - a city where there were gardens and open green areas.
But Lahore’s population increased. The city kept growing. Zaman Town, which was earlier in the outskirts of the city, is now even farther than the heart of the city. “Now there’s so much pollution you can’t enjoy the warm sunlight in November. The ground water is reducing every year,” he said.
In the last 15 years, ground water in Lahore has gone down by almost 800 feet. There are unplanned settlements. “You can see Lahore is expanding and the green areas are receding when on a flight,” he said.
The city will face food security issues. For the last two years, Pakistan is facing a wheat shortage of almost 1.5 billion tonnes. The PM says our cultivation areas are reducing.
Lahore has changed gradually, he said. “River Ravi has shrunk to the level of a sewerage nullah,” he said.
He spoke about the need to develop a modern city with amenities. “We can’t let cities grow unchecked. The more the city expands, the more difficult it becomes to provide [amenities] like gas, electricity, sewerage lines. It becomes impossible to dispose garbage. You don’t have the infrastructure,” he explained.
PM Khan believes Lahore will grow vertically. “Modern cities don’t expand horizontally. It’s easier for the government to provide amenities this way,” he said.
He spoke about the sewerage water going into the river and said treatment plants will be installed and clean water will be dumped into the river which will raise water level and revive the river. “We will move the river into a channel and make barrages. This project will not only save Lahore, but also solve its water problem,” he said.
It is a Rs5 trillion project. “Obviously, the government won’t be doing this. Private partnership and investors will be invited,” the PM said, calling it an opportunity.
“International obligations prohibit us to use money from the informal economy, but since there’s a corona [pandemic], we have time till December 31 to utilise this money in this project,” he said.
PM Khan said it is an excellent project for overseas Pakistanis as it will allow them to make big investments and it will generate employment opportunities.