Public Hearing On Ravi River Project Sees Impressive Turnout, More Ecofriendly Alternatives Tabled

The public hearing on Ravi River Urban Development Project (RRUDP) on Saturday saw an impressive turnout as over 200 local farmers and residents came to lodge their concerns regarding the project. The public hearing was held by Punjab’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive objections, suggestions etc. from the would-be affectees of the project and the public at large.

Earlier in the week, the implementation of the RRUDP was initiated even though it had yet to receive clearance from the EPA regarding its effects on the environment and local community. A number of reservations had already been expressed by social and environmental activists over the inadequate considerations made in the project’s environmental impact assessment report. Especially worrying are the inevitable displacement of local communities, the damage to the floodplain, and the damage to historical sites if the project is allowed to run as per its current proposal.

However, several provisions can be made to minimise the environmental hazards posed by RRUDP as well as to preserve the livelihood of local communities. One such proposal is to have a mere 20 percent of the proposed project site declared a National Park. Besides acting as a safeguard for the infrastructure in the event of a flood, the park can be used as a recreational area for picnics, fishing, bird watching, walking, cycling, outdoor games and nature tourism. Moreover, the National Park, with its open land and clean river water, can act as a much-needed lung for Lahore.

The preservation of natural environments and the welfare of existing communities living in an area are essential before moving forward with any development project. It is hoped that better sense will prevail not only in the case of RRUDP, but also for all future development projects undertaken by either the government or the private sector in Pakistan.

A part of Saturday's public hearing can be watched here.