By Amjad Ali
Islamabad, Mar 2 (EFE).- Pakistan is building a modern township along the banks of the world’s most polluted Ravi river to solve problems caused by overpopulation and expansion of eastern Lahore city.
The government claims the “largest riverfront modern city” near Lahore will help ease the problems of overpopulation, pollution, traffic congestion, water scarcity, and urban flooding.
However, environmental experts warn that the project for the second planned city after Islamabad would aggravate the river pollution.
A study on pharmaceutical pollution of the world rivers by the University of York in England has found Ravi the most polluted.
The researchers found paracetamol, nicotine, caffeine, epilepsy, and diabetes drug particles in the river water.
Global environmental think tank IQAir said, in November last year, that Lahore, home to more than 11 million people, was the most polluted city in the world.
In January, the Lahore High Court declared the acquisition of agricultural land for the new city project as unconstitutional and in violation of fundamental rights.
Consequently, Prime Minister Imran Khan threw his weight behind the project that would ease the burden on Lahore and save the river.
“If Lahore continues to expand, then the water table will continue to recede,” Khan had said after visiting the site. “River Ravi is shrinking and will soon become a sewerage drain.”
The government has said the 46-km long waterfront city would be modeled on some of the world’s top tier cities such as London and Dubai, and also bring economic benefit to some 40 affiliated industries and create jobs.
“This is a project of $20 billion which will create job opportunities and will also attract foreign investment. $1.5 billion foreign investment has already come in,” Khan said.
Soon after, the Supreme Court suspended the Lahore High Court order and permitted the government to resume work on the project, inaugurated by Khan in August 2020.
The Ravi river flows from the Himalayas in northwestern India into eastern Pakistan before merging into the Chenab river and then the Indus, which empties into the Arabian Sea in the south.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) says around 50 million people live in the Ravi Basin.
Its previously rich biodiversity accounted for at least 31 fish species and other wildlife, offering livelihoods for the rural poor in the region.
Since the 1990s, Ravi has posed severe health, environmental, food, and water safety risks, adversely affecting the economy.
In 2009, the Environmental Protection Department of the provincial Punjab government classified the river as “biologically dead.”
By 2015, more than 50 percent of all reported diseases in Punjab province were waterborne, and Ravi posed “a serious threat to the health” of the basin residents, the ADB study revealed.
Experts say that another city on the river banks will only worsen the problem.