I want to engage some active NGOs who want to help govt in this holy cause
By Javed Iqbal
Daily The Business exclusively talked to the Divisional Commissioner Lahore Dr Mujtaba Piracha as his office's role has become even more important after Mayor's office ceases to work due to the dissolution of Local Bodies by the Punjab government.
Divisional Commissioner Lahore Dr Mujtaba Piracha said on the one hand, there is a dire need of planting eight million saplings in the urban area of Lahore and on the other, 75 percent of the forested areas have been encroached upon during the last 15 years for the sake of material development.
Citing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s initiative of green and clean Pakistan, the Commissioner said that his office would utilise all the energies and time to materialise the dream of Prime Minister Imran Khan in this regard.
Dr Mujtaba Piracha said that he knew the existing poor situation of plants and trees in the city and concluded that without the active involvement of the civil society and other non-governmental organisations, the task of the large-scale plantation would be a distant dream. I have, therefore, engaged some active NGOs who want to help the government in this holy cause of forestation, he added.
The Tehreek-e-Insaf government has decided to promote high-rise buildings instead of establishing residential colonies on agricultural lands. This policy decision would help stop undue extension in the metropolitan boundaries
He also said that it was a fatal mistake on part of the past rulers who damaged the environment for the sake of development purposes. “No development could be tolerated at the cost of human lives” Dr. Piracha asserted and disclosed that he has also contacted the Pakistan Air Force to throw seeds of plants alongside the River Ravi. This approach of engaging air force jets for forestation reflects seriousness of the government.
He further said that there was a need for more nurseries in the city. Not only in the parks but alongside roads, especially, thousands of plants could be grown along the Ring Road to add natural beauty.
Initially, the polythene bags have been banned in the Ramadan Bazaars; but later on, the ban would be extended to all the bazaars and markets across the division to avoid this lethal pollution. An awareness campaign would also be launched to make the citizens understand the reason behind it, he added. He said that not only the polythene bags carry germs with them and cause the spread of diseases but also create huge waste management issues for the government.
Talking about Lahore administration’s signing of the memorandum of understanding with a welfare trust, he said that it was the great project of the government with the collaboration of an NGO. He said the Salan Trust would make about a hundred water filtration plants functional adding that the same Trust has installed many filtration plants in Islamabad including the one at the Parliament House. He stressed that being the Divisional Commissioner; it was his prime focus to ensure the provision of clean drinking water to the citizens. He said that this office had also initiated a plan of public toilets in the city and the government would extend this programme in the future as well. There is a severe shortage of public toilets in the city and people relieve on roads or use mosque facilities. These activities are part of the government’s clean and green initiatives, he maintained.
Initially, the polythene bags have been banned in the Ramadan Bazaars; but later on, the ban would be extended to all the bazaars and markets across the division to avoid this lethal pollution.
An awareness campaign would also be launched to make the citizens
understand the reason behind it.
Talking about the establishment of Ramadan Bazaars in the metropolitan city, the Commissioner said that he would ensure strict monitoring of these bazaars and their functioning. He said that price-control magistrates would ensure government rates in the bazaars. He reiterated that cleanliness, waste management and provision of necessary facilities like toilets and modern traffic management will be the priority areas. Moreover, he said that the government would also setup Iftar dastarkhwans and there would be strict monitoring of these arrangements.
Dr. Piracha said that abolition of the old local governments and the introduction of a new LG system has put multiple responsibilities on the shoulder of the civil administration.
Talking about new financial year’s initiatives of the Lahore Division, he said that tendering for Adda Plot to M2 and Multan Road to Sharqpur Road has been done and the new route of Lahore-Multan Motorway would be a matter of great importance for the commuters. He said that Commissioner’s office will ensure cooperation and coordination with the Ring Road Authority to ensure early completion of the projects and added that district administration and Lahore Ring
Road Authority would ensure the completion of these projects in time.
Moreover, he said that the anti-encroachment campaign would continue to retrieve state lands from the clutches of the land mafia.
Responding a query about Lahore Waste Management Company and the audit objections raised about extra payments to both of the Turkish companies namely, Albayrak and Ozpak, he said that this office was not concerned about that issue. However, the Deputy Commissioner’s office would be working to deal with the company affairs after the Mayor’s office was abolished.
The Commissioner, however, stressed fairness and transparency in all the public sector projects. Responding to a question about the Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf’s initiative of low-priced houses, he said that the civil administration and anti-encroachment squads of the city district government have been involved to remove encroachment on public lands. We would provide lands for this project and the district administration may acquire more land to materialise the initiative to provide cheap homes to the low-income strata.
The Commissioner said that though it was the project of Housing and Urban Development Department., the Commissioner’s job to complete this exercise with the support of civil Administration and all other stakeholders. He said that his office would play its role in the construction of homes besides the acquisition of lands through the office of Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners. He said that his administration wanted restoration of the city in its original shape. The encroachments near Shahi Qila on Zamani Begum’ Tomb and a nearby temple will be removed. The need is to restore historical places in the city, he highlighted.
Dr. Piracha said that on the directions of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, he was playing his role to resolve traffic issues, especially on the entry and exit points of the metropolitan city. He said that he has conducted many meetings with the Safe City Authority, Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency, traffic police and others to resolve the issue.
About 140 million rupees which were spent on small saplings alongside the Metro Bus pillars, he said that almost all of these tiny plants have been either withered or are dead and more than 160 million rupees have been demanded to plant the new saplings on the Metro Bus route. While talking about the Lahore Development Authority’s 2040 plan, Dr. Mujtaba Piracha said that the Tehreek-e-Insaf government has decided to promote high-rise buildings instead of establishing residential colonies on agricultural lands. This policy decision he hoped would help stop undue extension in the metropolitan boundaries.
He said that it was the responsibility of the LDA to expedite town planning of the city as well as ensuring implementation of building bylaws through strict vigilance. The commissioner had sessions with development and construction experts like Kamil Mumtaz, Nadeem-ul-Haq, Raza Ali and WASA, TEPA, LDA and others to devise LDA 2040 Master Plan.
The migratory trend of shifting from villages to big cities, particularly to Lahore, has increased urban problems and there is no composite policy to curb it. He said that all the big educational institutions and other health facilities have been established in the metropolitan city which is a cause of attraction to the people.
Dr. Piracha said that his office was of importance in other administrative as well as revenue matters as he has to hear and decide all the issues relating to revenue and land disputes. He said that when this office was abolished, the link between the district administration and the provincial government was missing and the people had to approach the Board of Revenue to file an appeal against the district collector’s judgments. Moreover, he stated that now a lot of land and other matters are decided on the division level. He confessed that the district administration and the Deputy
Commissioners were not that strong as the representative of the provincial government should be.
He said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government wanted to empower the Deputy Commissioner’s office to ensure service delivery at the Local level. He said the new LG Act will strengthen the role of the DC as a provincial representative as, earlier, there was poor coordination between the province and the district. Without strengthening the district collector the revenue collection shortfall will remain a major issue. The collection of agricultural tax, abiyana and water theft fine worth billions of rupees was pending as the DC office could not become functional.