Displaced Priorities

If you ever have had the guts to plan a trip to Switzerland, you will find on many websites that they actually recommend (‘they’ being your average traveler to the place, and not the officials) that you do not rent any vehicle to get around the country. Instead they point to the latest time table of the country’s public transport. I wish such a thing for Lahore. No, not a time table for public transport, but public transport itself.

I have never traveled on a bus, although I did traverse the Mall road for almost a year on the suicidal vans while doing my time at Government College. The vans were knocked up, were filled up till someone fell out through the windows and every once in while you’d get a seat next to a confused pedophile. But one thing good about those vans were that they were on a route that happened to be mine as well. Then I got upgraded to a motorbike and have not used public transport since. Not even a taxi. But there has been a desire to do so, a desire tainted with economic motivations. The desire hit me first when I started making money (while at University) and calculated the total cost of ownership of my then vehicle (a CNG-kitted Suzuki Swift – not a Khyber, a Swift!). I wished for another go at riding the public transport monster but that is when luck ran out; there was no convenient way of getting from my university to my home, other than hop twice between buses and then walk a total of a bit-more-than-one kilometer(s). So I stuck with my car. Besides, possessing a vehicle that can fit more than two individuals during college days was as cool as Fonzie.

But now I keep reading about how bad it is for the environment that the Punjab government is cutting down an estimated 1500 trees (somewhat-official figure), some hundred years old, to widen the 14 kilometer stretch of the Canal road. Environment? What? We have an environment, and no one told me about it?

But folks, seriously. Apologies to all environmentalists and ‘tree huggers’ in here and out there, but the idea of widening the Lahore Canal Road is not a bad one because we will be losing around 6,000 trees (WWF figure). Chopping trees ‘heartlessly’ can be a good thing if it is done for a good cause. But widening the canal road is not exactly a good cause.

“But look at the Lahore Canal,” you say, “the underpasses have really solved the traffic problem!” Are you on crack? Have you ever been on the Canal at rush hour? This underpass is on the left, that one is on the right and cars are all over the place. The Canal road is being widened BECAUSE there is a traffic problem that is only fuelled by the ill-planned underpasses. “But there are too many cars on the road because of them banks,” you say. Right, and there are still more cars out there, and widening the road will not leave ‘room’ for the ones already there, it will invite in more cars to fill in the space. I am sure there is some principle as solid as Archimedes’ to prove this point here. (get it? Solid principle, Archimedes? No? Never mind.)

My problem is this: you are planning to spend a tad more than 3 Billion rupees, and you have two options. Behind door number one is that you spend it on widening the Canal road (forget about the tree chopping for a moment here). You will solve nothing. Interesting.

Behind door number two is the real reason road-widening is not a good idea: public transport. Giving the city of Lahore, that keeps growing in size by the millisecond, some semblance of a public transport system in the form of buses and trains sounds like a brilliant idea, ESPECIALLY when you compare it to the dead-end canal-widening idea.

If you think, or doubt, that widening the canal road will be a good thing to solve the traffic problem, I think one of our very own Metbloggers, Mr. Rafay Alam will be in a much, much better position to answer that. The problem that I see, which is much bigger than environment and planning, is that of displaced priorities. Our job as citizens is to remind our government to do there’s.

So, there you are, 3 billion in hand. One solution is to burn it, and the other is to invest it back. A very tricky answer to this one, I assure you, right?

4 Comments so far

  1. Displaced Priorities | Lahore Metblogs | Taxi Opole (pingback) on December 20th, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

    […] Displaced Priorities | Lahore Metblogs This entry was posted in Object and tagged a-motorbike-and, authority, desire-tainted, dtc, dubai, […]

  2. Jassem Rauf (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2009 @ 8:06 am

    All talk is useless. Unless someone burns down the parliament no one will listen.

    Your elected representatives are out to save their behinds and couldn’t give a damn about trees in Lahore. For that matter they couldn’t give a damn about people who don’t have basic necessities of life despite paying exorbitant utility bills.

  3. exciton (unregistered) on December 23rd, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

    Momekh: You raise a valid point.

    Almost two years ago, I was chatting with the head of Punjab Horticulture Association, and I was blown away by his pigheadedness on this exact issue. He, encouraged by then a two-star general (his close relative) was shamelessly arguing that we are actually cutting “old” — as in useless deadwood — trees; and by eliminating the traffic jams through widening the canal road, we will be helping the environment instead of hurting it. Because we will be eliminating the traffic jams.

    We Pakistanis are blessed with such obscene, but seeming practically out-of-the-ass-short-term solutions to a myriad of our problems. Consequently the present quality of life is absolutely not an accident. The fact that we are actually a water-stressed-soon-to-be-water-starved-nation is also not going to be an accident.

    If separation of East Pakistan, multiple martial laws, massive natural disasters (earthquakes and flood) and current wave of unstoppable suicide bombing (terrorism) has not fundamentally effected the core culture of the nation, NOTHING ever will! NOTHING ever will! We have gone beyond the stubbornness and lubricity of the Nation of Lott.

    Our nation has been egging the Nature on; however, thousands of years of known history has shows that Nature always wins and such minor inconveniences — as a few million people — do not survive without fundamentally changing their ways.

  4. Pakistan News (unregistered) on December 30th, 2009 @ 11:12 am

    President Asif Ali Zardari’s attack on his unnamed enemies has raised many eyebrows and caused apprehensions about a possible repeat of October 12, 1999 when the then prime minister had sacked the Army chief.

    who in return conducted a successful military coup by dismissing the elected government.

    The presidential spokesman, however, does not see any such thing happening. “There is no such possibility,” Farhatullah Babar told The News, adding the PPP government does not apprehend any such thing.

    President Asif Ali Zardari’s speech in Naudero on the second death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto has stirred a countrywide debate over the targets of his hostility. He did not mention in clear words whether it was the Army, the media or the opposition that was threatening democracy. Many, however, see it as a subtle attack on the Army after the reports pouring out of the Presidency suggest Zardari’s growing negativity about the establishment.

    A senior columnist and political observer, while talking to this correspondent, feared as to what would happen if President Zardari makes an announcement about key changes in the military in a public meeting like the one he addressed in Naudero. Though the president’s spokesman finds it a hypothetical “concern” and simply ruled it out, the question does agitate many minds.

    Without identifying the enemies of democracy and those accused of trying to destabilise the democratic set-up, President Zardari has furthered the conspiracy theories instead of removing confusion about those threatening his government. Farhatullah Babar repeated that the president’s target was neither the Army nor the media but the anti-Bhutto forces, which too were not identified. Babar said that the president made a political speech that had the required tone and tenor meant for the PPP followers.

    Credible sources recently confirmed, although the presidency has denied, the president’s growing mistrust vis-‡-vis the top military leadership. In the absence of any clear explanation from the president, such behaviour on part of Zardari is incomprehensible.

    Although October 12, 1999 events were the outcome of the known mistrust between the then prime minister and the Army chief following the Kargil adventure of General Musharraf, in the present scenario the incumbent Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is widely respected for his professionalism and pro-democracy stance. General Kayani is not only highly popular within the Army but is also admired by political parties for the excellent role that he had played during the last year’s general elections and later on the occasion of the judges’ restoration.

    In a situation when the Army as an institution has regained its respect and there is absolutely no sign of the military’s attempt to destabilise the democratic set-up, any effort by the president to make key changes in the Army top command would be extremely dangerous for the system. Last year, the government’s abrupt shifting of the ISI under the Interior Ministry was unacceptable to all and sundry, including the media, which resulted into the immediate cancellation of the government’s notification.

    Perhaps foreseeing the dangers ahead, different views were being expressed in the media as a reaction to the president’s speech such as, “There are only so many possibilities about where the threat Mr Zardari keeps referring to can come from. With his public comments, Mr Zardari may in fact be alarming the persons in those institutions that they could be the target of impending attacks themselves and, therefore, need to strike before they are struck against. Our advice: put up or shut up. The president is supposed to be a symbol of the federation, a unifying force rather than a hyper-partisan figure fuelling conspiracy theories. More presidential, less political – that’s what the county needs from Mr Zardari.”

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