Lahore is now a city of more than 130 million people, and one of the fastest-growing urban centers in Pakistan. As the city’s previous master plan has run its duration, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has started work on the Master Plan for Lahore Division – 2050 (MPLD-2050), which foresees the city growing around river Ravi and towards Gujranwala and Faisalabad in the coming decades. Meanwhile, the government has started work on the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project — an ambitious scheme that envisages vast development on Ravi’s eastern bank.

Between the two plans, Lahore will go through some monumental changes. The Correspondent asks, what will Lahore look like in 2050?

In response, Lahore’s Chief Metropolitan Planner Syed Nadeem Akhtar Zaidi told The Correspondent that Lahore’s major outer growth is towards Gujranwala and Faisalabad. “Lahore will also grow towards Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, and Kasur,” he said.

Master Plan for Lahore Division – 2050 (MPLD-2050)

After extending the last date for the bid two times, on December 28 Lahore Development Authority (LDA) finally awarded the bid for the development of MPLD-2050 to Lebanese company Dar Al-Handasah for PKR 520 million. This came as a surprise to many as National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK), a state-owned contractor and planner with extensive work in Lahore’s development, was short-listed, but not awarded the consultancy. 

However, officials in LDA are confident that Dar Al-Handasah will provide them with exceptional services; the firm is a global enterprise that operates 47 offices in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Its five principal design centers are based in Beirut, Cairo, London, Pune, and Amman. It was formed in 1951, and it has been responsible for the development of conflict-struck Beirut over the decades.

While the Lebanese firm is slated to provide a detailed consultancy report in 18 months for the current planning project, LDA has given a preliminary indication of what the city would look like in 2050.

“The core Lahore city is quite developed as it is, now it needs only regeneration, conservation and upgradation. Development work will be carried out in the east, towards Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, and Kasur.”

“Tahzeeb ka markaz – khushhal Lahore (a centre of culture – prosperous Lahore); that is the motto of the 2050 plan and that is what we want to achieve, a prosperous Lahore,” Mr Zaidi said.

Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project

The Chief Metropolitan Planner said that LDA will keep development around the Ravi river in its deliberations and will devise a collaborative master plan.

“The Ravi project is part of the master plan; they have their own design, but there will be connectivity. They are not making it in isolation. Our major roads will connect with them, and we will start our development activity in those areas.”

The government initiated the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project aiming to develop residential and commercial centres on the Ravi basin. In 2013, the then-government of Punjab had invited consultancies for this project. However, nothing much had happened after the initial expression of interest. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has now taken up this project and started work on Ravi River Urban Development. In this project, the government of Punjab is constructing societies on the basin of Ravi River, starting near Shahdara and extending to Thokar Niaz Baig.

“In view of the city’s projected expansion and issues related to water in the Ravi River, the Government of Punjab has planned the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development on both banks of the river alongside a 46 km long stretch, that is contiguous to Lahore district’s northern and western boundaries through its authority Ravi Urban Development Authority,” the authority stated on its official site.

The master plan for the riverfront and urban development, including residential, commercial, academic, recreational, mixed-use and light industrial zone. The project area runs along the Ravi River in a northwest-southwest direction.

The Ravi Siphon forms the north-eastern boundary and the settlement of Mohlanwal forms the southwestern boundary. The eastern edge of the project area runs along the northern and the western periphery of metropolitan Lahore. In this respect, the Lahore Ring Road (north of Lahore), the Bund Road (west of Lahore) the Lahore Islamabad Motorway, and the Multan Road demarcate the eastern limits of the project’s area.

The western edge of the project area lies primarily in Sheikhupura district and is abound by Jaranwala Road and the Kala Khatie Narang Road. Furthermore, three road networks function as thruways between Lahore and the District of Sheikhpura. These are GT Road, the Sagianwala Bypass, and the Lahor- Islamabad Motorway.

Ever changing plans

Lahore’s expansion has attracted many vested interests, which have foiled even the best-devised master plans in the past. LDA itself has admitted to this factor. LDA invited consultants for the master plan and in this document, it said: “The previous master plans largely failed because the provisions of the plans were in conflict with the interests of powerful actors including government and private developers, political leaders, business elites, and the citizenry at large.”

However Lahore’s Chief Metropolitan Planner assures us that reasonable change is necessary to an extent, and must be accounted for.

“This time, LDA has decided to change its strategy and adopted an inclusive and participatory approach for the 2050 Master Plan. The take-home lesson was that ‘ownership’ of the plans by a variety of interest groups, power centers, and, most importantly, the citizens themselves, is essential for the successful implementation of urban and regional plans. This is why we got a foreign consultant, nobody got any preference,” Syed Nadeem Akhtar Zaidi told The Correspondent.

However, he added that there are many thing that might hinder forecasts, such as climate change and future government policy. There are other push and pull factors – population growth, immigration, urbanisation, which can change over time. “We are making these plans for the people, it shouldn’t be so rigid.”

“This is a continuous process, and cities keep on changing. The Walled City was once a commercial hub, now it is not, cities are living things.”


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