LAHORE: The Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project is likely to affect view of two major monuments of the city — Chauburji and Shalamar Gardens.
The 27.1km orange line comprises an almost 25km elevated track with train stations -- Dera Gujran to the intersection before General Post Office (GPO) Chowk and Jain Mandir to Ali Town -- and a 2km underground portion from Jain Mandir to the intersection next to GPO Chowk. The underground portion also includes some part of the historical GPO building.
According to the plan, executing agencies Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency will provide a bend to the elevated track to the right just before Chauburji Quarters on Multan Road (if coming from Yatim Khana Chowk) and then bring it back on the maiden line after crossing the Chauburji intersection.
The second bend would be provided to the right a little before the Shalamar Gardens that would be straightened over the maiden line right after the gardens till Dera Gujran.
The civil society said though these alignments would not involve demolition of the two monuments, but it would block their view from Bahawalpur Road and other spots.
“We are not against development, but we want it in the right way and right direction. Had the project been planned underground, especially around the monuments, it would not have blocked view of these historical places,” said Prof Ejaz Anwar, a civil society activist.
Anwar, who works for the Lahore Conservation Society as information secretary, said there was a suggestion during public hearing of the project to construct the portion of the track underground that is passing Chauburji and Shalamar Gardens, but the authorities did not give it any thought. Instead, the government took a wrong decision to elevate it, involving acquisition of private land unnecessarily. He also said construction of the Metro Bus System had already blocked view of the shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Minar-i-Pakistan and clock tower of the Government College University.
“But I wonder despite vandalising Lahore, traffic issues have not been solved,” he said.
He further said that in 1999, the government demolished a portion of the Shalamar Gardens waterworks at which he had approached the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). The Unesco director visited the site and expressed concern over the move. Finally, the organisation put the gardens on the endangered monuments list.
Similarly, a pedestrian bridge was demolished along Chauburji in 1988 after the civil society protested against blocking view of the monument. He said since there was no hope to save Lahore, its culture and heritage, the civil society had been forced to start protests.
Talking to Dawn, LDA Chief Engineer Israr Saeed claimed they had saved the monuments rather than damaging them or blocking their view.
“We have given a bend to the right to avoid any sort of damage to Chauburji. At this spot, we have created a distance of around 60 to 70 feet between the track and the monument to maintain its view,” he said, adding that while saving and retaining view of the monument, many Chauburji Quarters would be demolished.
Similarly, due to the other bend, the TMA office, waterworks office and various buildings would have to be demolished for retaining clear view of the Shalamar Gardens. He also claimed that only boundary wall of the GPO would be demolished for the underground portion, and even that would be reconstructed later.
“There will be no damage to the GPO building as being reported,” he clarified.
He said the civil society should not criticise mass uplift projects.
Meanwhile, a network of various civil society organisations led by the Lahore Bachao Tehreek (LBT) will hold a protest demonstration at Chauburji on Monday (today) against the possible environmental impacts on the city’s heritage, monuments, culture, ecology and identity due to the Orange Line Metro Train Project.
According to a press release issued by LBT Chairperson Imrana Tiwana on Sunday, civil society organisations, activists and members will gather and protest to demand the government amend the existing 27.1km project route from Dera Gujjran to Ali Town, Raiwind Road via G.T. Road, Railway Station, General Post Office, Jain Mandir, Chauburji, Samanabad Morr, Multan Road and Thokar Niaz Baig.
Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2015