RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S
By Aoun Sahi
The widening of canal road is being strongly criticised by environmentalists, town planners, architects and social activists who have highlighted its adverse effects on the already deteriorating environment of Lahore.
The actual plan aims to widen the canal bank road by at least 18 feet with a six feet shoulder (lanes) on both sides of the canal and remodelling of parallel service lanes. All trees which get in the way will be removed. According to an estimate at least 1,873 mature trees of various species and 60 acres of green belt on both sides of the canal will be lost under this plan.
Another important aspect which has been overlooked is the commercialisation of the area around canal road.
The Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (Tepa) of the Lahore Development Authority is the executing authority for the project. According to Tepa officials the only way to streamline the increasingly deteriorating traffic in the city is to widen the canal road. "It is the main link between the city centre and the growing city suburbs. At present vigorous development activity is taking place in Southern Lahore, which is connected mainly through this road with the rest of the city," says Khushhal Khan, chief engineer Tepa. In the first phase of the project, the Agency will widen the road from Jail Road to Ferozepur Road as a pilot project because the road between these two points is very narrow which causes frequent traffic jams on this part of the canal road. According to Khushhal the project is not linked to any kind of commercialisation in the surrounding areas of canal.
Tepa chief engineer says the primary function of roads is to manage traffic and "trees here are not so important as the smooth running of vehicles". They are widening the canal road to provide space to motorcyclists and cyclists who make 40 percent of total traffic on canal road. "Now people have found that 'save the environment' trick will not to stop its widening, so they have come up with this new idea of commercialisation."
But an official of Lahore Development Authority, on condition of anonymity, tells a different story. According to him on May 18, 2005 LDA's commercialisation committee met and declared the area facing both sides of the canal as commercial under Punjab government commercialisation policy. According to this decision, the land along the canal can be used for building institutions, restaurants and hotels and cannot be used for commercial plazas and banquet halls.
So far, according to the source in LDA, three international hotels and many educational institutions have showed their interest in this newly commercialised area. "Commercialisation of different areas in the city is one of the main sources of LDA's income. Last year LDA netted 37 per cent of its Rs 1.2 billion revenue receipts from commercialisation fees," he tells TNS.
Residents around the canal are surprised to know that the area has already been declared commercial. Psychologist Dr Nosheen Rehman, a resident along the canal road tells TNS that residents were not consulted by the government before taking this step. "Being a residential area, surroundings of canal were among a few areas of the city which were safe from the hands of land developers but present rulers have decided to change the total face of this area because of their lust for land." The widening of canal road will not only increase the number of vehicles but also population in this area, she thinks.
Experts think the only purpose behind widening of the canal road is to boost commercial activity in this part of the city. This is the reason why government quietly decided this two years back and has still not made it public. Renowned architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz says the present government is serving the interests of big groups and for them development only means abundance of vehicles, big buildings and mobile phones. According to him city planning in Lahore is increasingly dominated by a bias for motor cars, entertainment controlled by multinationals, profit-oriented healthcare and educational opportunities for the citizens. "Diversity gives life to the city. It is fast disappearing with privatisation of education and increasing disparity among the rich and poor," he says. Kamil thinks that the sole purpose of widening the canal road is to promote commercialisation. "Some of the big commercial projects like 'Dreams flats' near Shah Jamal and a five star hotel in GOR on the point joining canal road and The Mall have already been announced on the canal," he tells TNS.
Town Planner Imrana Tiwana thinks the project also needs to be examined within the larger context of town planning and urban development. According to her different areas of a city are categorised under different zones and residential areas should not be converted into commercial areas. "Canal is a historical land mark and its residential neighborhood can not be changed to commercial on the basis of interests of a group of people." she says. "The estimated reduction in travel time between Dharampura and Thokar Niaz Beg on account of an additional lane according to Tepa findings is 7 minutes. The cost for this will be Rs 700 million that is being taken from Punjab development budget."
She questions as to how is Canal Bank road considered a major artery when it has no link with higher density areas of the city and has no serious nexus with any major services? Why aren't more natural links like Wahdat and Multan Road considered suitable alternatives? "The traffic congestion issue in North Lahore is far more serious than in relatively less populated South Lahore, so government should use this money in those parts of the city to improve road infrastructure," says Tiwana.
She insists that remodelled project further strengthens the thesis that the only purpose to widen canal road is to utilise this area for commercial activities. "The area between Jail Road and Ferozepur Road is the most suitable to get plots for commercial activities while one cannot do this in Punjab University or in Aitchison College," she says.
Khushhal Khan says that they are not only focusing on Canal Road, the agency has taken up Multan Road, Wahdat Road and University Road for remodelling as well.
Hammad Naqi, director WWF, Pakistan, says widening of the Canal Bank Road will create the same problems presently being faced on Main Boulevard Gulberg and MM Alam Road. Secondly, he thinks that the project has technical flaws. "The proposed four lane Canal Road will forever be bottle-necked every time high-density four lane traffic tries to force itself into three lane underpasses," he says. This project worth Rs 700 million, according to him, is being presented as a solution to congestion on the Canal Road but will not work. "The only solution to rapidly increasing vehicles in the city is good public transport and better traffic management," he thinks.
Environmentalists think trees act as barrier and slow-down pollutant pathways protecting groundwater reservoirs while removal of trees result in the 'heat island effect' which is a major problem in urban areas. "The sudden removal of over 1,800 mature trees will drastically increase the underground water levels in the area. Water seepage from the canal without protective barrier of tree roots, will pose a danger to ground stability," says environmentalist Erum Aftab.
According to her trees act like an air filter and a mature tree absorbs between 120-140 pounds of pollutants and most importantly particulate matter, which are released in the air from vehicular emissions. "Urban greening is today's development strategy for urban areas in the world but it is not being followed in Lahore. Tree-cutting is increasing temperature and enhancing energy costs for cooling," she says. Erum is of the view that saplings cannot compensate for loss of mature trees.
By Sarah Sikandar
World peace. A cliche, a mere jargon. An ideal that probably will never leave the realm of idealistic minds and literature.
Till date I thought that world peace means life without evil, it is not. My world is very small. It basically begins from my home and encapsulates each and every person I meet, from closest friends to mere acquaintances. Small world, no wonder. But even with this small world with so few people, it is not peaceful.
Love, I believe, is relative and does not work for all of us. I can't love people I don't know or don't like and I am certain the feeling is mutual. How, then, can we both retain our personal space and peace. The only word that comes to my mind is tolerance. It is the only virtue that can redeem us. The old principle of 'live and let live' might be too pragmatic for Robert Frost but I agree that "good fences make good neighbours."
Think about it. All of us think that our beliefs are the only guiding principles that can rescue the world. They might work for me but not for you or vice versa. You like white I prefer red, what's the difference? I can not make you like red and you should not, by any means, try to convince me for white. Let's keep our reds and whites to ourselves.
Intolerance has seeped into our daily existence so much that we can not even locate it anymore. Nobody I know ever lets go of an opportunity to bash someone.
The most rampant form of intolerance I have witnessed is religious. I don't have a religious bent of mind so I can hardly say what women are thinking when they say that those who don't cover themselves properly will be punished. Nor can I identify with people who assert that the vital indicators of immorality in society are restaurants and girls with skimpy clothes. So, they must all be burnt before they get a chance to be burnt by the hell fire. With so many people discussing such petty issues I wonder if they fail to see the actual problems. All my school and college life I came across people who unmistakingly believe that what they have been taught by their families are the best ideals, the rest being foolishness.
The saas-bahu tussle has always been an important part of our culture and the same goes for sisters-in-law. I don't think that a girl can or should try to be a daughter to her in-laws. She can not. The best she can do is to try to ignore and learn to tolerate the differences. A little help from mothers-in-law would also do. They should not always look at each other as threat. Intolerance is rather amusing when it comes to family affairs. I have had a few episodes in my family where the elders would set not a good example for their young ones. The total show of intolerance nourishes irreconcilable differences between the closest friends and family members. I have seen relatives boycotting each other for such mundane things as not writing someone's name on the wedding card or, writing it in the wrong order.
My tolerance is always tested the most when my guests openly express hatred for my cats. I love my cats! I don't even mind them telling me they don't like cats. No problem. It is when they tell me to throw them out of the house that I start wondering who actually should be thrown out. Only if she had kept her words to herself.
I have no foes. But, like all of us, I have heard some of the meanest things from my friends. Only last week I met an old friend from college. She repeated at least five times how ordinary I looked in the clothes I was wearing. I waited for the sixth time. I had thought about all I was to say to her. But she decided not to repeat herself. "Good for her," I thought. It always helps when you think you can say whatever you want to people. Only, don't say it.
At home and work I see people bickering over petty issues. When the debate gets too heated you realise you have forgotten where it actually originated. The concept that retaliation is the only way one can save one's self respect, subdues tolerance. We have to realise that people don't always have to agree with us to live with us. It is humanly impossible for all of us to think alike.
• An exhibition of fabrics dyed from the leaves of Neer and mehendi flowers of Keekar, rind of Anar, root of Manjeet and the unique indigo-stained furniture at Croweaters Gallery from April 21-23. The gallery remains open from
10:30am to 7:30pm.
• Exhibition of Paintings by Khalid Mahmud at Ejaz Art Gallery from Tuesday, April 17 to 24.
• AFL Rickshaw exhibition at Alliance will present the work of 15
photographers at Francaise de Lahore on Friday, April 20.
• Movie Burqavaganza, a hilarious insight into
Pakistani burqa culture, at Alhamra Arts council on Wednesday, April 18.
• International Performing Arts Festival at
Alhamra Gadaffi Stadium from Friday, April 13 to 20.
• Interactive Theatre Panj Pani Fesival at
Arts Council from April 18 to 23.
• Drama and music festival at Alhamra Arts Council
The Mall from Monday, April 16 to 23.
• Exhibition Pakistan Information Technology
will be held at Expo Centre Lahore from
Friday, April 20 to 22.
By Saadia Salahuddin
Annual fairs are a common feature in educational institutions but the week long fair at the Pharmacy Department of the Punjab University was different from the fairs held generally. It was a festival, absolutely fun filled because everything had been taken care of by the organisers and stall owners. There were gifts, food and education for the students who study from 8 to 5. Of the 69 centres in the Punjab University only Pharmacy department arranges such an event.
The first day saw stalls by students only, so it looked like a school fair but different from a pharmacy school fair. It seemed there were lots of artists in the pharmacy department with a number of stalls full of flower arrangements. Another factor that added colour to the first fair day were stalls set up by foreign students in the department which comprise more than 70 per cent of the total number of foreign students in the Punjab University. They are from Sudan, Turkey, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, Iran, Yemen and Bangladesh and are 80 in number only in the Pharmacy department. Most of them came on scholarship basis. The department has an art gallery dedicated to poet Allama Iqbal with paintings of Ahsan Kamal gifted to the gallery.
Amid all this fun there was a stall of Pharmacy Health Club eager to demonstrate and give information on anything one wanted to know about first aid. There was a walk against hepatitis at the end of the day to create awareness in people about hepatitis and its prevention. They were offering free vaccination as well. Ministry of Health was one of the sponsors. According to a Gallop survey, pharmacy is the most trusted profession of the world.
The next day of fair was amazing with too many things going on at one time at the same campus. Thirty seven pharmaceutical companies had put up their stalls where they were giving information about the different medicines they manufacture. They were also giving away medicines free of cost. There were three stalls of veterinary medicines and two of homeopathic medicine. There was a gift on almost every other stall. There were games like quiz programmes, dart and counting backwards and they saw the greatest rush. Those who won got gifts. There was one stall which had put a weighing machine and a chart which showed weights proportional to heights. The fair had combined learning with entertainment. More than 150 people checked their weight and got a diet chart. The company was suggesting a medicine to reduce weight but can't say how seriously it was being considered. There were somehow many stalls which were giving away ice cream to everyone who visited their stalls. There were many giveaways like pens, bags, diary, candies, wound dressing material and medicines for tension relief. Interestingly, there was no stall from where one could buy anything. Students found certain stalls very friendly like that of Reko. Everything was actually for free.
Students said they received a lot of guidance with respect to their profession. A D.Pharmacy student said the fair is going to benefit D.Pharmacy students most. Highnoon Laboratories' representative said, "Students are our future customers and employees. Highnoon is providing Rs 400,000 scholarships to the Punjab University Pharmacy department."
For the pharmaceutical companies it was an opportunity to make their products known across pharmacists so apart from answering students' queries they were also giving away free samples of their products. All companies agreed that such a fair is helpful in the development of their products. There were some like FYNK pharmaceuticals which were telling people their medicines were cheap as compared to medicines manufactured by multinationals.
The university is turning out more and more pharmacists, the people who are said to know best about medicine. Along with all the fun-filled fair the department held a conference on WTO and Pharmaceutical Trading in which some of the big manufacturers were invited. The day long seminar was very informative and educative. The fair was an extraordinary event organised by the staff of the department but particularly one faculty member Zeeshan Danish must be appreciated for arranging the event. Of course all this was not possible without a team of enthusiastic students. Kudos to the staff and students of the Pharmacy Department but all this became possible because of the many sponsors, among them were mostly pharmaceutical companies.
Education department has superceded Punjab police in terms of complaints filed against it with Punjab Ombudsman
By Zaheer Ahmed
Every year, the report released by Provincial Ombudsman regarding complaints it receives against government departments catches immense public attention. Punjab Police has held the top position for years for being the biggest cause of inconvenience to the public. But this year, the education department took the lead as the number of complaints filed against it with the Ombudsman was the highest.
Provincial Ombudsman's report 2006 presented to the Punjab Governor, Lt. Gen. (retd) Khalid Maqbool says that the office of the ombudsman received 1854 complaints against the education department. The number of complaints against police department was 1677, against revenue administration 958, against local government & community development department 709 and so on.
The mandate assigned to the Ombudsman Punjab includes protection of the rights of the people, ensuring adherence to the rule of law, diagnosing, redressing and rectifying any injustice done to official maladministration or corrupt practices.
People approach this forum as it does not entail the charges normally incurred on litigation process. A complainant can simply write an application mentioning his or her grievances, attach support documents and file it with the ombudsman free of cost. All one has to do is to get the set of documents photocopied so that they can be sent to all the parties to the case.
TNS tried to look into the issue to find why complaints against the education department are on the rise when both federal and provincial departments were pumping billions into it. How valid is the slogan "Wazir-e-Aala ka khawab, parha likha Punjab" was also the question in the mind of this scribe while working on the issue.
During a survey it was found that unlike in the case of police, complaints against education department came from its very own employees. In case of police, most of the complainants are from the general public and not the police department employees. The complaints are normally regarding clearance of dues, long due promotions, suspensions from service etc.
A couple of complainants told TNS the education department employees turn to ombudsman's office as they don't get relief in their department. "It's indirectly an issue of the masses. When the employees of education department are disturbed and don't have peace of mind how can they teach their students," says a headmaster of a government primary school.
When asked to comment on the prevalence of complaints against the
education department in the 2006 report, additional secretary, Punjab Education Department Humayun Mazhar Sheikh says: "Employees of this department refer to Ombudsman's office because they think that their complaints will be promptly redressed".
Responding to a query as to why their complaints are not properly entertained within the department, he says, "the aggrieved persons usually do not adopt the proper channel, or do not approach the concerned officials. If their applications/files get stuck at any stage through departmental red-tape or with an official due to incomplete data, they rush to the ombudsman's office for the redressal of their grievance".
Humayun observes that most of the complaints reaching the provincial ombudsman's secretariat are of field formation nature, such as reimbursement of medical bills, promotion and transfer cases etc.
He says that around 450,000 people from 64,000 schools are affiliated with the education sector in the Punjab province, therefore, being a large department, complaints against the education department are bound to be more than those of other departments.
"Subordinate staff normally doesn't know the rules and regulations of the department so they delay their cases inordinately, which obviously leads to further delays in the clearing of their cases," he says, adding that then 'hey head for the ombudsman's office for redressal.
Humayun says a proper training programme for the department staff is being launched to acquaint them with the rules and regulations of the department which will help in providing relief to them in the resolution of their problems.
Besides, the department staff has also been directed to dispose off cases on time so that applicants do not need to approach the ombudsman, he adds.
Analysing the whole situation, one can say that though the provincial government claims to have taken dramatic and sweeping measures to improve the education sector, the grievances of the people are on the rise. The government should sit up and take stock of the situation, and adopt a mechanism that can help employees in providing relief to applicants within the department.
Old bookshops in Lahore
1. Readings, Main Boulevard
3. Ejaz Centre basement
4. Galaxy Books, Liberty
5. Mr. Good Books, Raja Centre
6. Old Book Shop, G Block DHA
7. Mirza Book Agency, The Mall
8. Old Books, Main Market
9. Kacheri Road on Sundays
10. Mall Road on Sundays
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'Top ten socialites in Lahore'.