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The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday set aside the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to halt construction of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT), ordering the Punjab government to resume work on the project subject to certain conditions.

The much-awaited judgement was announced by Justice Ijazul Ahsan on the multi-billion dollar train project almost eight months after the bench reserved its verdict on the matter in April. Justices Ejaz Afzal Khan, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Maqbool Baqar and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel were also part of the larger bench which heard the case.

The bench had taken up identical petitions filed by the Punjab government, National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak), Punjab Mass Transit Authority, Lahore Development Authority and Civil Society Network against the Aug 19, 2016 LHC judgement suspending construction work on OLMT within 200 feet of 11 heritage sites in the provincial capital.

The apex court today ordered the Punjab government to resume construction on the train project and complete it by the planned date.

The court also directed the provincial government to form two technical committees within 30 days to oversee technical aspects of the project.

One committee will comprise a senior archaeology professor from Punjab University and a senior judge nominated by the chief justice in order to determine if any of the heritage buildings have suffered any damage as a result of the construction work on the project. The committee will also be given Rs130 million in funds for the repair and renovation of the heritage sites.

Read more: Orange Line may cause serious damage to Shalamar: Unesco

The other committee will assess any losses suffered due to the suspension of construction work due to the LHC decision.

Conditions imposed by Supreme Court

The SC verdict was split four against one, with the dissent of Justice Baqar. The detailed verdict, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, has imposed 31 conditions on the authorities in order to continue work on the OLMT.

  1. The authorities shall ensure that the monuments remain stable and undamaged during the execution of the project.

    1. The authorities shall monitor vibration levels using crack measure devices such as Avongard Standard Tell-Tale throughout the construction period and for an additional period of 10 weeks from the date of commencement of commercial operation of the train. If the vibration level exceeds the safe limit at any point, the construction work or operation of the project shall be discontinued and repair measures must be taken.
  2. Technical experts shall be present at the sites during the construction phase in the vicinity of the heritage sites with all necessary equipment for monitoring vibration levels.

  3. An independent and experienced conservation engineer shall be appointed to monitor the project during the construction and operation phases, who will submit monthly reports to an advisory committee that will pass on its recommendations to the director general (DG) of Archaeology department.

  4. Once construction of the OLMT is completed, the train shall operate on an experimental basis for at least two weeks on the entire route, during which vibration levels will be monitored.

  5. The OLMT will be required to slow down when passing near the heritage sites.

  6. State of the art vibration measuring equipment shall be installed permanently in different places in and around the monuments to monitor levels of vibration.

  7. Special teams comprising experts will be set up to inspect heritage sites from time to time to detect any damage or deterioration. Proper records and logbooks must be maintained for this purpose.

  8. Any damage suffered by the heritage site shall be reported to the DG of Archaeology in writing so that he can ensure that necessary remedial steps are taken to ensure the safety of the buildings.

  9. Recommendations of an advisory committee, that has already been set up, will be passed on to the DG of Archaeology.

  10. Excavation, where necessary, shall be carried out in a manner that does not damage the heritage sites.

  11. The executing agency shall install accelerometers, velocity transducers, noise detectors and vibration measuring equipment in and around the monuments.

  12. Excavation shall not affect any of the exposed or buried structure the heritage sites.

  13. If any of the monuments are damaged by the construction or operation of the OLMT, work must be stopped immediately and remedial steps to repair the sites must be taken.

  14. A hotline must be set up so that the public can inform authorities of any damage spotted by them.

  15. The DG Archaeology shall investigate within seven days if any information of damage suffered by the sites is received from the public. Repair and renovation work must commence within 30 days of receiving recommendations from experts (if any).

  16. No construction material or equipment shall be stored/stockpiled within the protected area of the monuments.

  17. Any change in the track that brings it closer to the heritage sites shall not be made.

  18. Measures must be taken to reduce dust pollution from the project and minimise any damage that might be caused to the heritage sites.

  19. The design and colour of the viaduct and nearby stations shall be in harmony with the setting and appearance of the monuments.

  20. The hydraulic tank of Shalimar Gardens shall be restored to its original position and the surrounding area shall be converted into a green area.

  21. The southern side of the Shalimar Gardens must be camouflaged by building a wall in accordance with the recommendations of the DG Archaeology.

  22. The decorative motifs of the Shalimar Gardens must be replicated at the train station in order to create harmony between the OLMT station and the monument.

  23. The tile mosaic motifs of the Gulabi Bagh Gateway must be replicated on the station built near the monument in order to create harmony with the historic gateway.

  24. The area around the Chauburji Gateway must be properly attended and developed into a greenbelt.

  25. The decorative motifs of the Chauburji Gateway must be replicated on the station built near the monument in order to create harmony with the site.

  26. The area around Zaibunnisa Tomb must be properly attended and developed into a greenbelt.

  27. The decorative motifs of the Zaibunnisa Tomb must be replicated on the station built near the monument in order to create harmony with the site.

  28. The respondents shall prepare a phase-wise plan to control and monitor urban encroachments and the process of creating a buffer zone around the Shalimar Garden in consultation with Unesco and other international agencies.

  29. All future projects which directly, indirectly and incidentally involve heritage sites shall in the first instance be widely publicised through print and electronic media at least six months prior to the commencement of the project and public hearings shall be conducted to hear objections, if any, against the projects.

  30. For all future projects, no-objection certificates, licences, approvals and permissions as required by law shall be obtained before work on the project site is commenced.