Shanzay Minhal Mustafa
PAKISTAN is soon to come up with its first ever-metro train in Lahore. It is known as the Orange Line Metro Train. Surprisingly, this train would be built with the lowest per km cost of $54.5 Million in comparison to the per km cost of metro trains built around the world.
With the construction of this metro train taking off, controversies and criticism too were not late to take flight. Much of the criticism surrounds the notion that the construction of the Orange Line Metro train might harm the heritage sites of Lahore. These include Supreme Court building, Chauburji, GPO, Shalimar Garden, Budhu ka Awa, Dai Anga Tomb, Kapurthala House, Jain Mandir, Mahraja Building, Saint Andrews Church Nabha Road, Lahore Cathedral, Naulakha Church and Centre for Disadvantaged Children near Jain Mandir.
India recently completed the phase 1-A of the construction of the Pink Line of Jaipur Metro in Jaipur city and is now operational. Like the Orange Metro Train in Lahore, the Jaipur Metro also faced a lot of criticism and legal cases but the issues were big. Show cause notices were issued to the respective state authorities, Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation and land acquisition officers of JDA. The petition said that no proper survey was done before begin-ning the construction of the Pink Line. Some accidents also took place at the site of the construction of the Jaipur Metro. A case was registered against the construction company involved in the construction of the Jaipur Metro. However, the phase 1-A has been completed and is now running successfully.
As for the Phase 1-B of the construction of the Jaipur Metro, there are genuine concerns regarding risks involved to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Hawa Mahal, Isarlat etc. The most alarming issue was that the Phase 1-B of the construction of the Jaipur Metro would pass from within the Walled City of Jaipur. As per the designed route, this meant that the Badi Chaupar and Choti Chaupar, two important heritage landmarks were up-rooted. All this development work is in progress despite the archeological laws in the country. While in Lahore, not a single law was violated regarding the heritage of the city but the construction of the Orange Line Metro Train is facing delays.
According to the Indian law, whoever pulverizes, ruins, damages changes, uproots, scatters, abuses, endangers or permits to fall into rot a secured landmark any figure, cutting picture, etc. would be detained for 6 months plus a fine of 5000 rupees or both. It is evident that the government is not ready to stop the construction work at any cost. Jaipur authorities JMRC and the district authorities recently uprooted two temples namely Rojgareshwar Mahadev and Khashthharan Mahadev. Imagine the uproar if during the construction of the OLMT, a single mosque or sacred monument was to be uprooted or demolished.
However, the authorities in Pakistan working for the OLMT’s con-struction seem to very people oriented. This is so because not a single heritage property would be harmed. In Jaipur, the JMRC was said to be shifting 13 temples elsewhere which fall in the way of the Metro.
In November, 2015, some activists gathered around Chauburji in Lahore and demanded that the government should use tunnel technology instead of an elevated track near the Chauburji Monument to protect its view and the building from the effects of vibrations. The Government had already taken all the precautions before starting construction of the Orange Metro Train. LDA has already approved that the construction of the metro train in Lahore is being carried out in accordance to the Antiquities Act (1975) and the Punjab Special Premises Ordinance (1985).
Moreover, LDA has already approved of the fact that the OLMT’s elevated structure is very sleek and slim and no visual barrier shall be experienced. The authority has also denied that there might be some kind of vibrations caused by the train. These vibrations are not liable of harming old heritage sites. This is so because the OLMT does not fall under the category of high speed trains. Authorities have also assured that if an elevated track is not given priority over an underground track, the properties that belong to other people might be harmed because this may also involve the risk of relocating people somewhere else.
According to the German Standard DIN 4150 Part 3-1999 ‘structural vibration in buildings’, the maximum vibration velocity at the foundation level of the heritage structure shall be less than 3mm per second. It was found that the vibrations which will be caused by the metro train would only be less than 0.03mm per second.
Hence, there is no such thing as demolition or destruction of any of the monuments taking place during the construction of the Orange Metro Train in Lahore. Instead, the Metro Train is being constructed on a location which will only help these heritage sites gain more tourist attention each day. Not only that, metro trains and other such mega projects of mass transit have always been a great contributor in the economies of respective countries.
The good news is that, World Heritage Committee (WHC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has allowed Pakistan authorities to pass the Orange Line Metro Train project’s elevated track as per plan in front of this world heritage site called Shalamar Gardens. As per senior officials, this go-ahead to Pakistani authorities was given in the 40th meeting of the committee held in Istanbul, Turkey, from July 10 to 17.
The government seems focused on the construction of the metro train because the route was designed with such accuracy that none of the heritage sites will be disturbed nor removed or demolished. Ensuring safe projection of the project, a few days back, the CM Punjab said while speaking at the Punjab Assembly that in Malaysia, places of ablution of a mosque were demolished for this purpose. ‘No mosque or church would be damaged for metro train in Lahore,’ he explained. He also said that no historical site would be demolished or damaged for the project.
Here, the question arises as to why would a government take steps that are of little to no good. Especially so, the Punjab Government has always been curious when it comes to taking decisions regarding the implementation of development projects for the greater good of the people, this is one of the many reasons why Punjab is the most developed province of the country.