Senator seeks SC intervention to stop metro bus project

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Mar 11, 2014.

Islamabad – Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed has written to the Supreme Court to take suo moto notice of a proposal that might destroy green belts on two Islamabad avenues to make way for the planned metro bus service.

Sayed, who is also the convener of the Senate sub-committee on environment, has also scheduled a public hearing of the sub-committee on March 17 to discuss the controversial proposal.

According to a report published in The Express Tribune on Monday, the metro bus project’s consultant firm, Nespak, has proposed to expand the 9th Avenue and Jinnah Avenue for the Islamabad-leg of the inter-city public transport service.

The bus service, which is expected to provide relief to inter-city commuters, has already been criticized by opposition parties and environmentalists for the project’s cost and the lack of environmental impact studies.

Traders have also resented the project because their businesses will be affected when the Murree Road in Rawalpindi is expanded to make space for metro bus stations.

The metro bus will be given a dedicated corridor for operation on the roads of the twin cities, much like the metro bus in Lahore.

Nespak has suggested that the Rawalpindi-bound carriageway of the 9th Avenue be converted to a dedicated route for the metro bus. The green belt to the right of the carriageway will be flattened to make room for three new traffic lanes, according to Nespak’s proposal.

Similarly, Jinnah Avenue will be widened by up to six metres, destroying the green belts on either side of the avenue, as per the plan’s details.

The route alignment proposal is apparently in violation of Islamabad’s master plan, which identifies green belts on both sides of the 9th Avenue and requires conservation of green belts.

Sayed said Islamabad’s greenery is its identity and it must be protected.

“Development should not be at the cost of natural beauty of Islamabad,” he said. “We do not want Islamabad to turn in to a concrete jungle like Singapore.”

Nespak has not addressed concerns raised by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) about the expansion proposal, according to CDA officials.

The CDA, which claims the proposal was shared after the design phase, has recommended that the median on 9th Avenue be used to make a dedicated route for the bus service instead.

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