ISLAMABAD: The World Heritage Committee which is scheduled to meet at Manama in Bahrain on June 24 is set to add the Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens to its list of World Heritage in Danger, according to the meeting’s agenda.

The committee will inscribe some of the 30 sites nominated for inclusion on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) World Heritage list, at the meeting, which will be chaired by Sheikha Haya Rashid Al-Khalifa of Bahrain from June 24 to July 4.

In addition to Pakistan, two properties in Kenya and Nepal will also be placed on the list.

A joint team from the World Heritage Centre (WHC) and ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission visited the Shalamar Gardens in April this year after the Supreme Court’s decision which gave the opinion that the construction of the Orange Line Metro — which will pass through the front of the south entrance of Shalamar Gardens — will have an irreversible impact on values relating to the artistic and aesthetic accomplishments exemplified by the property.

In the light of the potential threats posed by the metro line to the property, the WHC and ICOMOS proposed that the Fort and Shalamar Gardens be added to the list of World Heritage in Danger at the committee’s 40th and 41st sessions, but after much debate, the committee decided not to proceed at the time.

A reactive monitoring mission to the property has been outstanding since 2016, and should have been allowed to review the metro line project and its impacts before irreversible decisions were taken.

The mission was conducted by Dr Feng Jing, Chief of the Asia and the Pacific Unit of the Unesco’s WHC in Paris, and Dr Alkiviades Prepis, Cultural Heritage expert representing ICOMOS International.

The mission considered that the metro line represented a threat to the Out­standing Universal Value (OUV) of the property — notably its authenticity and integrity, and that the WHC should consider inscribing the property on the World Heritage in Danger list.

This would allow the Punjab government to show its goodwill by cooperating and proceeding immediately with full implementation of all mitigation measures and recommendations. It is imperative that before any of the proposed measures are implemented, detailed project studies should be submitted to the WHC for review by the advisory bodies.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018