The decision to establish the River Ravi Front Authority (RRFA), a ‘modern city’ in the north of Lahore, is being celebrated throughout the nation under the pretext of reduced burn on the provincial capital. What’s being overlooked is that the trend of Lahore centric development still continues, alongside apathy towards the smaller cities.

Keeping in mind that the ADB has already promised Rs150 million, and private investors are looking to pour billions more into the venture, the project has some obvious advantages, but it is important to also consider the many problems that might also surface. The same amount, if not less, can be utilised in revamping the many towns and smaller cities in Punjab beyond Lahore’s proximity–improving facilities, infrastructure and services for residents. The infatuation with a promise of a ‘new city’ that is right next to the most prosperous region in the province robs multiple others that deserve an upgrade.

Self-reflection at this point in time is pertinent; creating a new city comes with challenges of its own. Besides the hefty cost, a new city takes its time to function fully. Improper services and absent markets in the short term is not a prestigious incentive for individuals.

Even if we ignore the issues highlighted above, in the long-term, massive spikes in urban migration tend to follow an ill-planned urban development project. Inwards migration to Lahore has already led to other areas in Punjab being neglected; if the provincial capital now gets a sister city right next to it, more swarms of migrants are likely to follow. What becomes obvious then, is that the root problem is not being resolved—a decent standard of living should be guaranteed in an individual’s place of residence thereby neutralising the need to migrate in the first place.

The government’s tendency to prioritise Lahore centric development needs to be rectified. RRFA serves as an extension of Lahore and to call it a ‘new city’ would be highly deceiving. The change we are looking to bring will only manifest if we are able to adhere to principles of equality.