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LAHORE: As the civil work on the underground portion of the Orange Line Metro Train Project (OLMT) is about to complete, the workers, engineers and support staff have termed the days they spent in 24/7 construction activities the toughest.

The work on the 1.7 long underground portion of the project, which connects the Lake Road with an intersection before Lakshmi Chowk via Jain Mandir, Old Anarkali and Nabha Road, was launched on Dec 20 last year after the Supreme Court allowed the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and the Punjab government to resume construction.

“Hundreds of workers, including me, took part on the underground portion of the project. We couldn’t go back to our homes to see our families for a long time,” Siddique, a worker said. “Now when this portion is about to complete, we are going to our homes to celebrate Eid with our families,” he told Dawn.

The Rs200bn project is 27.12km long and has 26 stations. It has a 1.7km long underground stretch with two stations.

“It is most crucial parts of the whole project since it connects Chauburji with Lakshmi Chowk underground. It is also a vital as some heritage sites are situated within its 200 feet radius and the Supreme Court allowed us to resume the work under certain conditions imposed for adopting measures to protect the heritage sites,” LDA Chief Engineer/Project Director Mazhar Hussain Khan told this reporter.

“Some concrete work remains at 140 meters of the total 1,700 meters stretch while all the other civil works, including excavation, piling, sewerage, concrete casing etc, have been completed. The CR-Norinco engineer will start a survey of the portion soon to lay the track and the survey will take about a week,” he explained.

The project had been embroiled in controversy since its start after the civil society pointed out its devastating effects for many heritage sites along its route. Construction on the project remained halted for several months after the Lahore High Court issued a stay against it. The Supreme Court later allowed the government to resume construction after imposing nearly 30 measures to protect the heritage sites.

“We are taking extraordinary measures for protecting the heritage sites. Whatever work has been done so far, it is according to the measures/conditions imposed by the Supreme Court. A supervisory committee constituted by the court is also satisfied with the work,” Mr Khan claimed.

According to an LDA spokesman, the authority has invited applications/proposals from qualified individuals for monitoring conservation of all the heritage sites and special premises protected under Antiquities Act 1975 and Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance 1985 with reference to the train project. The consultant should at least have a graduate degree in civil/structural engineering or equivalent qualification preferably postgraduate degree in heritage structural conservation with minimum experience of 10 years in conservation, preservation, structural stabilisation and traditional materials preparation & usage and heritage management.

“The interested individuals may send their applications/ proposals before July 6 for such consultancy services for a period of about six months,” the spokesman added.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2018