LAHORE - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday performed the groundbreaking of the first phase of the Ravi River Urban Development Project (RRFUD) and said that it would be a reflection of Naya Pakistan (a new Pakistan) the PTI had promised to make.  

“This project will not only stimulate economic activities, it will also address the burgeoning issues of the Lahore city like contamination of the Ravi River and fast depletion of underground water”, he said while addressing the ground breaking ceremony here. 

The first phase of the Riverfront will be 46 kilometer long and will have three barrages, six water treatment plants and residential units. This project will be completed in three phases. It will have 1.8 million housing units and 13 special centres including Knowledge city, health city, commercial city, innovation city and sports city. 

The prime minister lamented that sewerage water was being drained out in the Ravi River, polluting its water and giving rise to different diseases. He expressed the confidence that the new project would recharge the city’s fast depleting water table as it will have a clean water front and a lake.

Imran Khan in his speech referred to Singapore where the blackish water of the river was purified with the use of the latest technology. “Once completed, other cities would emulate its design”, he said. In a briefing, arranged at the project site, the prime minister was told that the project would be completed under the private-public partnership and conceived a modern and green city with different clusters of information technology and education sectors.

Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, federal ministers, provincial ministers, foreign dignitaries, members of the provincial assembly and high officials were present during the ceremony. Earlier, the prime minister performed ground breaking of the project.

The prime minister cautioned that certain problems could crop up in the way of realisation of the new city to be equipped with modern facilities as often the big dreams took time to materialise and face hurdles. He said the establishment of a new city was a much needed requirement of not only the Lahore city but also of the whole country.

The prime minister said, “Its (Lahore city) growth is unsustainable and it consists of about 40 percent Katchi Abadis (slums) as no one ever thought about them.” The people, who had big dreams and ideals, always faced hurdles but they never felt bogged down with the problems, he added.

Referring to building of Naya Pakistan under his party’s manifesto, the prime minister while indirectly alluding to the policies of previous rulers, said definitely, the country was undergoing difficulties due to inherited huge loans, and limited and short sighted policies. They had limited thinking and were interested only in setting up sugar mills, accumulation of pelf and purchase of big residences in London. They had no interest in the country, he added. “For change, we have to go for belt tightening, but it did not mean to reduce having big dreams,” he added.

 

The prime minister further said for achievement of big ideals, one had to burn the boats as it was imperative to tap full potential. It was Edmund Hillary, who first ascended Mount Everest (during 1953) while many had failed. Anyone who ever accomplished anything was not because of his capabilities, or the education, or how rich he was, but because he was dreaming big, he added.

 

“Judge a person what he aspires to be,” the prime minister quoted and stressed that thinking of great could lead to big achievements. He especially mentioned former Malaysian ruler Mahathir Mohammad, who had established the new capital of the country to make his point. The prime minister also shared his personal experiences in facing the problems and hurdles during the construction of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital in Lahore and establishment of NAMAL University in Mianwali.

Mentioning the outcome of smart lockdown policy during the coronavirus pandemic, he said he was advised for complete lockdown as enforced by many Western countries. “I have repeatedly questioned what will become of the poor people, daily wagers and cart owners during the complete lockdown but none replied,” he added. On the other hand, Indian Modi’s full lockdown added to the miseries of the poor leaving the whole country in chaos, he added.

The prime minister said for the first time in the world’s history, the State of Madina took the responsibility of catering to the needs of the poor and feeble segments of the society. Upon such ideals was based the thinking of Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

While in modern day, he said, China had pulled over 700 million poor people out of poverty and now the world feared its rapid progress.

About his government’s initiatives to address poverty, the prime minister said they issued health cards and now the entire population in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be provided with the health cover.

He further said Panahgah (shelter homes) were set up for the poor daily wagers and labourers where they were being provided with the standardized meal, clothing and lodging. The Naya Pakistan Housing Project would provide affordable residences to the poor and low income groups. They were providing about Rs30 billion subsidies in the construction sector.

Under the Ehsaas programme, he said, they had provided Rs 200 billion. Its projects included skills development, scholarships for the poor, income generating initiatives for the rural women and for the first time, a complete programme to overcome the issue of stunting growth.

Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, speaking on the occasion, said the Ravi River Urban Front Development Project (RRFUD) would spread over an area of 46 kilometers with a capacity of storing 600,000 cusecs of water with three barrages. He said the project would also help increase the underground water of Lahore, which had plummeted to 600 feet below the surface level. The chief minister further said that about 12 different zones and 1.8 million housing units with the use of local material would provide huge employment opportunities to the locals. The project would be remembered for long as it would give a boost to the country’s economy, he added.