LAHORE          -     Prime Minister Iman Khan on Friday launched Rs5 trillion ‘Ravi Urban Development Project’ and termed it vital to save the historical city of Lahore from environmental challenges caused by unplanned settlements. 

“This project is meant to revive the lost glory of Lahore, a city struggling to cope with the problems of pollution, sewerage and water shortage”, the premier said while addressing the inaugural ceremony.

The prime minister said that the project will develop the dying River Ravi into a perennial freshwater body, with high-quality waterfront urban development. The modern city will have all facilities for its dwellers, besides a forest area to be planted with six million trees, he added.

Imran Khan told the audience that work was also underway on the Naya Pakistan Housing project and a stage had come where Pakistan was at a tipping point in terms of employment creation and development.

The premier said the project would be the second largest planned city in Pakistan after Islamabad. Imran Khan regretted that the River Ravi that once traversed through the city, eventually shrunk into a sewerage nullah over the years.

He lamented that Lahore witnessed deterioration in all civic services due to irregular expansion of the city over the past few decades. He said the city was lagging behind modern cities in terms of civic services including waste disposal, clean drinking water, electricity and gas and communication.

He pointed out that people were suffering from serious breathing problems as the pollution in Lahore had risen to an alarming level, also obstructing sunlight in winters. He hoped the new project would restore the water table of Lahore that had dropped by 800 feet in the last 15 years.

He said clean water would be provided in the Ravi River through construction of barrages and sewerage treatment plants along the river. Giving more details of the project, the prime minister said that the new city would have high-rise buildings in vertical dimension to optimally utilise the land space. It would be completed with the collaboration of private investors, he said.

He invited the overseas Pakistanis to benefit from the grand opportunity by investing in the project. “The people might invest in the construction sector till December 31, 2020 , as Pakistan has been given relaxation on international obligations regarding documentation of the informal economy”, he said. The prime minister said the project would provide employment besides generating economic activity as the construction sector was linked with 40 other industries. “It would also lead to wealth creation and help in poverty alleviation besides providing more resources for health, education and debt servicing”, he observed. Imran Khan said that unlike the metro bus project of the previous government which required an annual subsidy of Rs28 billion, the current project would be self-sustaining.

“Reward and punishment”

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday called for introducing system of reward and punishment in the government departments to improve governance and public-sector performance.

“Corruption always starts from the top and elite class. This is our country. We have to live and die here. We have to correct the system for future generations. Improved governance is vital for the country’s development,” he said while addressing, through video-link, the civil officers of Punjab, including the secretaries of administrative departments, commissioners, deputy commissioners and regional police officers. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police were also present on the occasion.

The prime minister stressed that the country could make progress by following principles of the State of Madina, which ensured rule of law, protection of weaker segments and promotion of education. The officers, he said, had a very important role in the achievement of this objective. “Be empathetic with the poor. Do away with the Thana Culture and adopt the policy of public service.” the prime minister advised the bureaucrats.

The prime minister also lauded the performance of the Punjab administration for taking effective measures against the spread of coronavirus pandemic. “You will not face any political pressure. Follow merit. I stand with every officer who will follow merit,” he told the officers.

Imran Khan said Pakistan had been facing a difficult economic situation as its country remained burdened under debt. This caused resource constraints for education, health and development projects, he added.

He said Pakistan’s development was quoted in the world during the decade of 1960s but, unfortunately, the country’s economy received a big dent in the later years due to widespread corruption.  He said the present government had started an anti-corruption drive to save the country from this menace. The prime minister hoped that the civil officers would play an important role in the promotion of the construction sector in the province.

Promotion of business sector

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said the federal government would extend all out cooperation to promote industrial and business sectors. While talking to a delegation of MNAs from Faisalabad, the prime minister said that Faisalabad was playing a key role in the national economy.

The MNAs delegation consisted of Chaudhry Asim Nazir, Nawab Sher Waseer, Raza Nasrullah Ghumman, Khurram Shahzad, Farrukh Habibullah, Faizullah and Raja Riaz Ahmed. Federal minister Senator Shibli Faraz, Advisor Shahzad Akbar and Chief Minister of Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar also attended the meeting. The prime minister told the parliamentarians that incentives to the business and construction sectors would ensure development in the country. The steps were being taken for welfare of small and medium enterprises, he added. The parliamentarians apprised the prime minister of the development works in their respective constituencies.

While discussing the COVID-19 situation, the parliamentarians appreciated the government’s strategy to overcome the pandemic and also lauded the performance of the Faisalabad administration.

The MNAs also lauded the prime minister’s efforts for highlighting the Kashmir issue, particularly the Indian illegal action of August 5 2019 and human rights abuses in the Indian-held Kashmir.