Sad saga of Orange Line


WEB DESK: The people who don’t know their past have no future. Should the Orange Line Metro Train project in Lahore go ahead as planned it would certainly destroy some of our past. But hopefully, thanks to the recent verdict of Lahore High Court that is not likely to happen.

The court has stopped construction on the Punjab government’s multi-million dollars project wherever it passes within a radius of 200-foot of some of the sites protected under the antiquity and special premises laws. To great relief of heritage lovers, the court has set aside all the NOCs, issued by the relevant local authorities, in violation of 200-foot condition. Of the 11 heritage sites the Orange Line Metro Train project threatens the most prominent are the Shalamar Gardens, Chauburji, Zaibunnisa Tomb, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, General Post Office and the Supreme Court Lahore Registry.

The verdict observes the rich history of Lahore calls for ‘legal duty and moral responsibility’ of the state and the public functionaries that these monuments are preserved and perpetuated so that the succeeding generations remember their ancestors’ traditions, culture and civilisation. The government has been asked to engage independent consultants, preferably in consultation with the Unesco, in order to carry out a fresh study of protected immovable antiquities. In fact the Unesco’s World Heritage Committee had already expressed its concerns about the construction of Orange Line Metro Train project and had asked the government to prepare a “visual impact study” before launching work near the Shalamar Gardens – it will pass within 12 meters from the main entrance of the Mughal gardens. But its call went unheeded. What happens next that’s in the realm of the unknown. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is determined to challenge Lahore High Court’s verdict.

Costing something like $1.6 billion the 27-kilometre Orange Line project will connect Ali Town on Raiwind Road with Daira Gujran on GT Road, with 26 stoppages in between. Of the total length 25.4km will be elevated while the rest 1.7km would be underground.

Of course, cities as big as Lahore do need mass transport system, but it should have been underground as New Delhi or many metropolitan cities in the West have. Since most of the elevated section of the project is in the low-skyline residential areas it would not only appear monstrous to look at but it is going to pollute the environment. Perhaps not much of hard thinking has gone into its planning.

Alternately, the road between Ali Town and Chauburgi could be widened instead of having an elevated road over it. Same should have been the case with road from Shalamar to GT Road. And in between Chauburji and Shalamar the route of the Orange Line Metro train should have been underground bypassing the heritage sites. But high visibility of the project seems to have been the motivation – believably for political advantage, provided one is grossly indifferent to all the havoc it was to raise and it did raise. “It is a story of a wholesale land-grab in the history of Lahore,” says civil society activist Maryam Hussain.

Source: Business Recorder