Lahore, the second biggest and fastest growing city of Pakistan, is a paradox in population and cultures. It boasts a large population that commutes to work every day, and puts a burden on public and private transport — which is a dilemma every fast expanding city in the world has to face.
A few days back, commuters on the Khayaban-e-Annemarie Schimmel (also called the Canal Bank Road) saw that name signage on the University underpass had changed overnight to Kashmir Underpass from Waris Mir Underpass. This scribe tried to find out the modalities involved to change a street or, in this case, an underpass name. As a result, a bit of history and related matters came up which may be of interest to the readers.
The original entrance to Lahore from the north was along the GT Road. After crossing the Ravi Bridge, traffic branched off to Bund Road and Ravi Road to reach their destinations. With the opening of the M-2 Motorway from Islamabad to Lahore in November 1997, the north entrance shifted to Thokar Niaz Beg and the Khayaban-e-Annemarie Schimmel. The city fathers realised that the road infrastructure would be unable to sustain the load for long and undertook the task of widening and other ease-of-flow measures on the Canal Road which over the years have borne results and the traffic with few issues of congestion, flows smoothly.
With the widening of the Canal Road the need to prevent congestion at traffic signals was felt, and the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) under the aegis of the Government of the Punjab, carried out a better traffic flow plan including a feasibility study for the construction of underpasses along the canal. As a result, the canal underpasses were planned, designed, and constructed by the LDA.
The first of the underpasses constructed at the Jail Road/Canal intersection, was inaugurated in November 2003, easing the traffic on this important intersection. It also gave impetus to the construction of more underpasses along the Canal Bank Road.
Other choke points in the city were identified along with the canal bank, for the construction of underpasses — the Siddique Trade Centre Overhead Bridge/Underpass (2015); the Shadman/Jail Road (2015); and Kalma Chowk (2013). The Model Town/Ferozepur Road underpass was constructed and named after the late writer Ashfaq Ahmad.
The Kalma Chowk intersection is one of Lahore’s busiest, with an average of 400,000 vehicles using it per day. Recently, the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) also constructed underpasses in their area to ease traffic flow.
While the remodeling and construction of the Canal Road was underway, civil society agitated against the cutting of trees along the sides from the land acquired to widen the roads, and a case was filed in the Lahore High Court. In its hearings, the Parks and Horticultural Authority (PHA) informed the court that over 27,510 trees of various species had been planted as replacement, against the 1,301 trees cut from the sides of the canal.
The canal bank underpasses located at strategic points have gone a long way to ease the flow of traffic not only for the people entering Lahore but also for the residents of the localities situated along and near the canal. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an LDA staffer told this scribe that the job of the Authority ended with the construction and handing over of road and similar infrastructure projects to the Metropolitan Corporation Lahore (MCL). He also said that “naming as well as maintenance-related issues are the responsibility of the MCL.”
The underpasses along the canal have been named after important personalities who have left a mark on the history or creation of Pakistan, or they have rendered distinguished services for the country. Mian Abdul Waheed, the personal staff officer to the Lahore administrator/commissioner, shared a list of the canal underpasses and their names (See Table) with TNS. He said that the naming of roads and related infrastructure “is done according to The Punjab Local Councils (Road and Street) Rules, 1981.” (See Box).
To a question about changing the name of the University underpass, from Waris Mir to Kashmir, and whether the change was notified and if so when and how the feedback was evaluated, Waheed said, “The signage was changed overnight by unknown people. An inquiry is underway to ascertain how.”
On the other hand, the travelling public and those faced with the daily traffic issues in Lahore are of the view that for any real change to occur (in the traffic patterns on city roads), such infrastructural changes may be helpful but these aren’t likely to make a difference. They call for a revamping of the traffic management system as well as the warden system.
Besides, drivers’ education and strict adherence to traffic rules are a must, if we mean to get sustainable results through a top-down management perspective, integrating technology to improve vehicle traffic flows and increase safety.
The rules dictate that
No road or street shall be named after a person unless he is:
- the founder of the nation, or he was at the forefront of the freedom movement and took part in the creation of Pakistan;
- national personality (no longer alive) with an unblemished record of service to the nation;
- hero who laid down his life in defence of the country;
- living or deceased head of a foreign state friendly towards Pakistan;
- foreign national in respect of whom permission has been granted by the Federal Government;
- famous Muslims character from history; and
- person who has rendered distinguished services to the urban local council
*No road or street shall be named after a person if he is a sitting member of the urban local council; or he holds any office under any local council, the Federal Government, Provincial Government, or any public authority, or is a public representative
*Every proposal for the assignment of a name to a new road or street or for change in the name of an existing road or street shall be published for inviting objections and suggestions in such manner as an urban local council may determine, and the final proposal shall be made after taking such objections and suggestions, if any, into consideration
*The urban local council shall forward its final proposal to government for approval and no proposal shall be implemented without the express approval of the government