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KARACHI: Conservationists have expressed the fear that the World Heritage Committee (WHC) may put Shalamar Gardens and Lahore Fort on the Unesco’s List of World Heritage in Danger owing to the construction of Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) in Lahore.

In a statement issued the other day, officials of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) in Pakistan, Fauzia Qureshi and Aneela Naeem, said such a decision might be formally taken through a vote of member states in the upcoming WHC meeting scheduled to be held in July.

They said the decision to send a ‘reactive mission’ to Lahore in the context of reported damage to Shalamar Gardens was a result of the vote and unanimous decision of all representative countries taken during the WHC meeting held in Istanbul last year.

They claimed that despite repeated letters from Unesco and WHC the government had not issued visas to members of the WHC’s reactive mission. They urged the government to issue visas to the mission’s members so that they could visit the sites and prepare their report about threats and damage the OLMT might be causing to the historical monuments.

They said if the OLMT project was not going to damage the monuments as claimed by the government, then why the mission, comprising international experts from the world’s leading scientific body, was not being allowed to come here, review and examine the situation at the sites.

They said the Heritage Impact Assessment provided by the government to the WHC was not in line with international standards and failed to address the full range of impacts of the project. They said it was also not clear on what basis the Punjab Department of Archaeology had issued a No Objection Certificate for the project.

They called for carrying out of a comprehensive Heritage Impact Assessment in line with the WHC-Icomos guidelines, including a Visual Impact Study. The reactive mission should also be allowed to visit Pakistan and carry out its studies independently to ensure transparency, they added.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2017