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Orange Line Metro: Land acquisition, rates dominate EIA public hearing

Orange Line Metro: Land acquisition, rates dominate EIA public hearing

LAHORE: Stakeholders raised concerns over the proposed acquisition of their land for the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project on Tuesday at a public hearing over project’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report by the Environment Department at Alhamra Cultural Complex.

The EIA report was issued by the Lahore Development Authority, and prepared by the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak).

The value of compensation, and government’s ‘misplaced priorities’, were other concerns which a majority of the participants raised at the hearing.

Khalida Shahid, of Nawankot, was worried about the imminent displacement. Her five-marla house, where she has been living for decades with her three daughters, is being acquired for the project.

“Though I’m ready to sacrifice my house for this project, the officials should at least tell me about the compensation and resettlement cost which I’ll be paid,” she said.

Muhammad Ali Tirmizi, another participant, spoke of the lack of information and communication from the government.

He said his property had been marked for acquisition. “I don’t know about rates and whether it’s being acquired per marla DC (district collector) rates as mentioned in the registry or market price,” he added. He said if the property was being acquired as per DC rate, it would be a huge loss to the owners. “I suggest market prices,” he said.

Architect Raza Ali spoke of the safety of historical monuments - Chauburji and Shalamar Gardens - which were also on the project route.

“Pakistan has already received two warnings from international agencies for not protecting the Shalamar Gardens well,” he said, adding that more warnings would pour in if the route was not amended.

He said he was surprised why the government had not set its priorities as per needs of the people, as they needed more good quality education and health than metro trains or buses. “I suggest the government to keep the metro train underground along Chuburji and Shalamar Gardens,” he said.

Advocate Nadeem Sherwani said the project would ease mobility of the public while Malik Shahbaz demanded the project be originated from Avenue-1 rather than Ali Town.

Kamran Siddique wanted quality material for the project as well as good compensation for property owners. He said public hearings must bring about public-friendly changes in the projects.

Muzaffar Mufti, a shopkeeper, sought use of state land available at Chauburji to Samanabad Morr in the project.

“If the government uses its own land, it will just need to change the location of a train station,” he justified his demand.

The similar demand was raised by Saim Butt. He demanded the Lakshmi Chowk station be built on the state land.

Muhammad Farooq was concerned about his restaurant and other area properties marked for the Daroghawala Station. He suggested that the station be built at state land available in the area.

Aamir Ahmad sought change in the location of the station near Canal View Station.

Abdul Hayyi asked the officials to display lists of the properties to be acquired for the project while Abdul Basit demanded phasing out motorcycle-rickshaws on the routes linking the metro train project.

Mian Munir criticised the project, calling it unfeasible. “Since we need electricity, the government should spend Rs165 billion on power generation projects,” he said. He alleged that the government had planted its people in the hearing in order to get positive feedback of the project. “Please, pay attention to hospitals, schools and clean drinking water supplies,” he added.

Shalimar traders’ leader Muhammad Rafique also demanded change in location of the Shalimar station “to avoid acquisition of 100 shops”.

Haji Tariq demanded that the Baghbanpura station be built on Roti Plant.

Sana Ijaz questioned the use of 74MW for the metro train project while Muhammad Fahad asked the government to change the location of the Morr Samanabad station.

Shafqat Ali called the project good for the people of Lahore.

PML-N MPA Waheed Gull assured the participants of getting compensation as per market prices. He said the chief minister had also assured compensating even those without ownership documents of their property.

Nespak engineer Kashif Bashir briefed the participants about the EIA. Tepa additional chief engineer said camps would be set up near the proposed train stations to brief the people about the proposed land acquisition. He said they had minimised private land acquisition through changing the project design.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2015

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