- The “biggest ever megaproject”
So far what we know about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Rs 7 trillion Ravi City Project is no more than an idea. Lahore continues to expand without any long term plan. With the population of the city fast increasing, it could face Karachi-like water scarcity within a few years. There are no modern facilities to cope with the 5,500 tons of waste produced daily by the city, let alone recycling and turning the waste into commercial goods. A city with a population of nearly 13 million has only one landfill. The Ravi, which was once a sizeable river has turned into a gutter. Lahore no doubt needs government attention.
Leaving the metropolis to its fate, Mr Khan wants to build a new Rs 7 trillion riverfront city on 100,000 acres, partially in Lahore district and partially in Sheikhupura. It is supposed to be a well designed modern city consisting of green belts, piers and boardwalks along with necessary amenities. Among the targets is to rehabilitate and develop the River Ravi into a perennial freshwater body with treated waste water released into it. The project will save Lahore by stopping the spread of unplanned urban sprawl and raise the water table which is going down fast. The idea would be generally welcomed. What is in doubt however is the capacity of the government to execute the mega-plan.
There are questions that remain unanswered. First, where will finances for the grandiose project come from? The PM has talked about overseas Pakistani investors and those in the country in possession of black money. Few overseas Pakistanis responded to Imran Khan’s calls for sending dollars to overcome the financial crunch the government faced or for water reservoirs. Putting aside qualms of conscience, the PM has again asked black money holders to invest in the project. Perhaps the PM is eying foreign Pakistani investors this time. As he has appointed ministers and advisers with conflicts of interest, his choice of the builders will remain under scrutiny.
The PTI has so far shown little aptitude for development activity. The KP government made a mess of the Peshawar BRT project, the only major development work undertaken by any of the PTI’s governments. The PM has yet to establish credentials as a go-getter.