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Work on over $9 billion Lahore mega-development will continue as per schedule

Ruda CEO says the Lahore High Court ruling may jeopardise international investments in Pakistan

Ravi River Urban Development project in Pakistan -- An artist impression
Ravi River Urban Development project in Pakistan -- An artist impression

Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Wed 26 Jan 2022, 11:36 AM

The multi-billion-dollar Ravi River Urban Development project in Pakistan's second-largest populous city of Lahore will remain on track despite the court ruling to immediately halt its construction, its top official says.

Imran Amin, chief executive officer of Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), said the Lahore High Court's judgement would be challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and the work on $9 billion-plus project to develop a 46km-long world's largest riverfront development will continue as per schedule.

"The operations or authority has not been stopped by the court ruling, but only two sections of the amended act -- powers of the authority to act as local government and its power to acquire land -- are objected in the judgement. Hence the operations will continue without any hindrance," Amin told Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

"These two sections shall also be challenged in the higher courts of Pakistan, as we feel, are operating in accordance to the constitution. Our legal team is discussing the court judgement and will take appropriate steps to challenge in the higher courts of the country," he said.

Mega development future?

The Lahore High Court declared on Tuesday the River Ravi Urban Development Project illegal and passed orders to halt its construction immediately. The court also ordered that the Ruda immediately repay the loan of Rs5 billion it took from the Punjab government for the project.

"The Ruda is a district management arm of the government for controlled area and cannot be halted. Generally, this [court ruling] doesn't stop anything on our projects and we shall continue in the same manner," Amin said.

Central Business District (CBD) and Ravi River Urban Development are two flagship projects of the Punjab government and designed in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had laid the foundation stone of the project in September last year. The construction of a 46km-long lake, laying of a complex network of roads and construction of 12 new high-tech vertical cities are some of the prominent features of the project.

But, dozens of landowners filed petitions against the government's plan to build a megacity on the banks of the Ravi river. The over $9 billion endeavours would also include housing, commercial areas, hospitals and schools — creating a metropolis that could ease pressure on overpopulated Lahore and support its urbanisation.

The Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), a government body created to manage the project, aims to build an artificial channel and a series of barrages along the Ravi's path to control its water level, which the authority says will help conserve what limited flow remains and restore Lahore's supply of groundwater.


Setback to FDI

Amin said the Lahore High Court's judgement would derail the government's efforts to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country.

"The court's ruling will definitely hurt the international investors and FDI towards the country. Projects such as Ravi Urban Development are important for the country. It is the country's first green smart city project that is being planned and will bring in about $40 billion of investments into the country," Amin said.

The Punjab government signed 17 deals worth more than $1 billion during the Punjab International Business Conference in Dubai in November. The deals were signed on the sidelines of Expo 2020 to attract foreign investment, build infrastructure and promote hospitality and tourism in the province.

Out of the 17 deals signed at the business conference, Ruda managed to win the trust of the investors to develop the first vertical city of Pakistan in Lahore by 2035. It would collaborate with Dubai Sustainable City to develop a similar infrastructure at a 46km-long riverfront development. It is also working on Masdar sustainable business model and will incorporate some of its key features in the mega-development.

"The courts should support such development projects but the Lahore High Court ruling may jeopardise international investments into the country," Amin said.

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