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SAHIWAL: The Harappa Museum administration succeeded in getting released development funds for the construction of a five-kilometre long boundary wall with a six feet height to protect archaeological remains spread over 1,400 kanals (174 acres).

It is learnt that Rs118 million funds have been released for the boundary wall and upgradation of other facilities in and around the Harappa archaeological site.

Curator Hasan Khokkar admitted that the boundary wall construction had been pending for nine decades because the Archaeology Department did not have the legal possession of 358 kanals (42 acres) excavated land being attached with the Harappa Museum. Assistant Commissioner Tahira Ikram said although all the museum land was protected under the Antiquity Act 1920, it was literally owned by more than 326 private landowners.

According to details, the total land of the Harappa Museum consists of two portions having 132 acres which house the museum building, offices, residential areas, rest houses, gardens and a store.

Know more: Govt set to get back 358-kanal museum land

Protected with the iron-grilled fence, this land is legally in possession of the Archaeology Department. The second portion comprises 42 acres of land where exists the archaeological mounds, remains, burial places and other excavated sites. This second portion has no boundary wall.

In the absence of the boundary wall, the archaeological site is open from all sides for every type of traffic and commuters.

Mr Khokar said this excavated site was protected under the Antiquity Act 1920 which was later amended in 1975, but the Archaeology Department had no legal possession since nine decades because the land was owned by private individuals.

He said since the land was protected under the law, no-one could take possession of the protected land.

Since decades the Archaeological Department had been struggling to get the legal possession of 42 acres of land, but funds were never allocated for private owners. Hence, neither the department could construct the boundary wall nor private owners could dare to make use of the land, he said.

District Collector Dr Sajid Mahmood said the situation had remained unchanged till August 2012 when a local civil society organisation started running an aggressive campaign for the acquisition of 42 acres of archaeological site.

“The campaign bore fruits and caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi released and transferred Rs180 million funds into the account of the district government for disbursement among 326 private land owners having legal possession of the protected land,” Dr Sajid said.

Lok Sujag Advocacy Officer Sabah Masood said the Board of Revenue, Punjab, had already given approval under Letter No 643-2014/316-S.H dated April 22, 2014, for the disbursement of Rs180 million among private land owners.

Tahira Ikram confirmed the gazette notification No IV, V, VI under the Land Acquisition Act had already been issued by the Punjab government.

It is in this background that the provincial government has approved Rs118 million development package for infrastructural up-gradation of the Harappa mound and archaeological sites.

At least Rs86 million will be spent on the construction of six-feet high and five-kilometre long boundary wall, repair and maintenance of 1.3km long walkway track inside the archaeological mound and laying of tuff tiles in front of the Harappa Museum. While Rs32 million will be incurred on the upgradation, conservation and restoration of archaeological remains, including the extension of museum gallery from southern side of the existing building, maintenance and leveling of grassy lawns, provision of security lights within museum premises, erecting of signboards for local and foreign tourists, provision of safe drinking water and benches, up-gradation of toilets and washrooms and purchase of new furniture for the rest house.

It is learnt the Punjab Buildings Department has started construction of the boundary wall and development of water course inside the Harappa Museum.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2014