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LAHORE: Senator Barrister Ali Zafar on Friday explained to the Lahore High Court that the Riverfront Urban Development Project (RRUDP) was environment friendly and would ensure conservation, clean air for Lahore and include within it a massive forest.

In his concluding arguments on behalf of the Ravi Urban Authority (Ruda), Mr Zafar argued that the Punjab Assembly had deemed it necessary to create Ruda as an authority over a specified area contiguous to existing Lahore city so that the increasing population could be accommodated in a sister city in a planned manner.

He said the project would ensure compliance with all environmental protocols for battling against climate change. He pointed out that the project included a mechanism for water conservation, groundwater recharge, flood protection and innovative approaches to mitigate pollution.

Defending the acquisition of land for the project, Barrister Zafar argued that according to many judgements of the superior courts, the acquisition for the purpose of housing projects or other such developments had been declared valid.

Therefore, he said, the land acquisition proceedings on behalf of Ruda were in accordance with the law. He alleged the petitions against Ruda had been filed by certain vested interests and private housing schemes who did not want the planned city to come into existence.

He also rejected an argument of the petitioners that the Ravi Urban Development Act 2020 had taken away the powers of the local government. He argued that any local government having any objection to the master plan could challenge the same before the court.

The counsel also defended acquisition of agricultural land for the project and relied upon judgements of the courts in support of his argument. He also pointed out that the land would not be compulsorily acquired but on a voluntary basis people had been offered compensation in the shape of developed plots in addition to monetary compensation.

He said the court may direct Ruda to increase the forested area and make a green buffer zone to protect environment and air of Lahore. He said Ruda was ready to appoint consultants approved by the court and conduct another environment study in order to ensure all environmental aspects were catered for.

Justice Shahid Karim adjourned the hearing till Dec 20 for the arguments of the advocate general of Punjab and other counsel.

In this case, the judge had already stayed the process of land acquisition for the project for not meeting the legal requirements and environmental laws.

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