LAHORE - Instead of utilising purpose-built industrial city at Faisalabad spanning over 4,500 acres, the Punjab government is all set to purchase 1,562 acres of rich agri lands costing over three billion rupees to the national kitty to establish Apparel Park at Sheikhupura Motorway Interchange, it is learnt.

The farming community has decried the move stating ‘no industrial progress at the cost of agricultural loss could be appreciated’.

Earlier, in 2004, during a previous regime, a state-owned body Punjab Industrial Development and Management Company (PIDMC) had developed an industrial zone M3 spanning to 4,415 acres at Faisalabad on the Motorway.

At M3 Industrial City, out of total 137 industrial plots, 107 are still lying vacant and only five plots have been colonised, a source disclosed.

Amazingly, the same company PIDMC has been given the task to develop industrial city called the Quaid-i-Azam Apparel Park at Sheikhupura Interchange with neighbouring country China’s cooperation.

The Punjab government has already released funds, in the 36th meeting of Provincial Development Working Party amounting to Rs 3315.66 million to purchase agricultural lands from the farming community.

About 1100 acres have already been acquired by the government, it is learnt.

Decrying the current government’s move to ignore the previous government’s initiative to develop industrial city at Faisalabad, a main cotton growing area, the industrialists said the better the policy makers have avoided it.

The Faisalabad industrial estate, they said, had been established near dry port thus easier for transportation of goods and machinery.

They decried the government for not controlling the real estate entrepreneurs and the so-called policy makers who want to destroy greenery and the limit agri-produce.

An industrialist said that uninterrupted 24/7 power supply attracted the investors besides better law and order situation. Merely signing MoUs with others would meant nothing without generating energy that was nonexistent, he said.

A farmer said that over 2,000 cattle produce over 100,000 litres of milk monthly on an average of 4,000 liters per day from the area where the government wanted to establish the industrial city. The fish farms, he said, too would be suffering.

He said it would be unwise to swallow agriculture lands just to establish factories.

He demanded of the government to review its decision. “Instead of wasting rich agricultural lands and public money on Sheikhupura industrial area, the government should restore the M3 Faisalabad garment City,” he said.

The factories in the province, he said, have been exposed to hours long loadshedding besides unannounced gas shortage spells, making the mills to incur heavy losses.

The need was to generate more power to run the wheel of industry instead of installing more textile units, he opined.

Provincial Minister for Commerce and Industries Ch Shafique, was not available for comments. Secretary Industries Ali Sarfaraz Hussain said that there was a need of an Apparel Park near Lahore as Chinese industrialists considered it more feasible to prepare garments for export purpose from the capital city. As the spinning and yawn work was Faisalabad based so the Chinese group will purchase about 1000 acres of land in M3 industrial City.

An official of the Punjab government said that the M3 Industrial City was one of the six large industrial estates being developed in Punjab by the same company PIDMC.

Two Industrial Estates at Multan on 1410 acres, Quaid-i-Azam Industrial Estate on 565 acres, Sunder Industrial Estate 1602 acres and Value Addition City 215 acres, he told.

The officer said that a Chinese delegation comprising Chairman Shandong Ruyi Group Yafu Qiu and Vice Chairman Weiying Sun earlier this year visited the Punjab Apparel Park site and showed their keen interest to making investment here.

The Punjab government has already created a special post of DIG Foreigners Security alongwith a special squad. He informed that the proposed Park with state-of-art facilities, comprising 1170 industrial plots of various sizes from half an acre to 20 acres, would be given access from Motorway as a special case.

The park besides creating 200,000 jobs, he said, would earn huge foreign exchange for the country and revolutionise the industry by benefitting from the option that the EU has granted GSP Plus status to Pakistan.