ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday allowed conditional go ahead to the Punjab Government to continue work on the Orange Line Metro Train project, setting aside the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision to halt the construction near 11 heritage sites in Lahore.
The apex court has conditionally allowed the Punjab government to carry on with the 1.2 billion dollar Orange Line Train project in Lahore. A five-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan has formed a committee, led by a retired judge, to oversee the impacts of the project on the effected heritage sites.
The judgment was announced by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan after the bench had reserved its verdict on the matter in April. Justices Ejaz Afzal Khan, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel were also part of the larger bench hearing 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 judgment suspending construction work on OLMT within 200 feet of 11 heritage sites in the provincial capital.
“With majority of 4 against 1, Maqbool Baqar, dissenting, we endorse and approve the NOCs/permission letters issued by the competent authorities and the recommendations of experts relating to execution, mitigation and remedial measures required to be adopted by the executing agency and allow the project to proceed subject to the conditions and directions,” the court order stated.
The court directed the petitioner to make all necessary arrangements to ensure that the monuments remain stable and undamaged in all respects during the execution of the project as specified in the HIA and Study of Control of Vibration, Noise and Foundation.
Vibration monitoring shall be undertaken as a part of the monitoring plan using the 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 or such further time as may be directed by the Director General, Archaeology. In case, it is found that vibration levels at any stage of the construction or operation are exceeding safe limits, construction work / operation shall immediately be discontinued and remedial action shall be taken to ensure that such levels are brought down to acceptable limits. Such actions may inter-alia include use of one piece of equipment at a time, during the construction phase, adjustment of train speed, addition of buffers and such other remedial and mitigating measures as may be recommended by the experts, it added.
The court stated that technical experts should be present at the sites during the construction phase in the vicinity of the antiquities and special premises with all necessary equipment for monitoring vibration levels. In case, vibration levels exceed the acceptable limits, work shall immediately be stopped, remedial measures taken to the satisfaction of experts and further work shall not commence unless written clearance for resumption of work is given by the experts.
“An independent and experienced Conservation Engineer shall be appointed to monitor the Project, both during the construction and operation phases. He shall submit monthly reports to the Advisory Committee which shall make such further recommendations to the Director General, Archaeology as may be required to ensure that the Project as a whole is meeting all technical requirements meant to preserve, protect and conserve the antiquities or protected premises,” the order said.
The court in its order stated that on completion of the project, the train shall be operated on experimental basis for at least 2 weeks on the entire length of the route and the vibration levels shall be monitored to ensure that the same are within the acceptable limits. Commercial operation shall not commence unless written clearance is given by the experts confirming that vibration levels have consistently been found to be within acceptable limits.
The speed of the Train shall be reduced while passing near the monuments as recommended by the Directorate General of Archaeology from time to time on the basis of data made available to it and state of the art vibration measuring equipments shall permanently be installed at suitable places in and around the antiquities and special premises to monitor levels of vibration created by operation of the train. Records of the same shall be maintained and regularly checked by a responsible officer deputed to do so.
The court ordered that recommendations of the Advisory Committee (already set up) shall be placed before the Directorate General of Archaeology, who shall take necessary steps to ensure that the same are complied with in letter and spirit by all concerned agencies, contractors, sub-contractors and operators.
The court further ordered that where excavation is necessary it shall be carried out in a way that it would not affect any structure or foundation of the antiquities or special premises and where necessary special arrangements shall be made to stabilize and strengthen the structure of the antiquities and special premises.
All necessary safety arrangements shall be made in accordance with the best engineering expertise during excavation, construction and execution phases of the Project.
The court further directed that the executing agency shall install accelerometers, velocity transducers, noise detectors and vibration measuring equipment near the antiquities and special premises.
The appellant shall ensure implementation of additional mitigation and remedial measures as mentioned in vibration analysis report by NESPAK, Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) as well as in the reports submitted by Dr. Uppal and Dr. Rogers. Excavation would be carried out in a way that would not affect any of the exposed or buried structure of the Special Premises.
The bench ordered that a dedicated hotline shall be set up, telephone numbers whereof shall be prominently displayed in public areas around all antiquities and special premises for reporting damage or deterioration observed by members of the public or tourists.
No building material or equipment shall be stored/stockpiled within protected area of the monuments and no change shall be made in the alignment of the track which brings any part of it nearer to the monuments than the distances set out herein above.
The court ordered the provincial government that the Hydraulic Tank of Shalamar Garden should be restored to its original position and the surrounding area will be converted into a green area. Structures on the southern side of the Shalamar Garden shall be camouflaged through construction of a wall in consultation with the Directorate General of
Archaeology. All practicable efforts shall be made to create a buffer Zone around Shalamar Garden as per proposal already pending in the Directorate General of Archaeology and other competent forums.
The court also directed the Government of Punjab to set up an Antiquity and Special Premises Fund with the sum of Rupees One Hundred Million which shall be dedicated to monitoring,
renovation and reconstruction work of 11 protected and special premises mentioned herein above. It shall be a revolving fund and shall be replenished on yearly basis.
The authorities concerned were also asked to form a broad based Special Committee of Experts consisting of Director General, Archaeology Department; a Professor of the Department of Archaeology, University of the Punjab; Head of Department of Structural Engineering, University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore; a Senior Professor nominated by the Chairman of Board of Directors of National College of Arts; chaired by a retired Judge of this Court nominated by the Chief Justice of Pakistan shall be notified which shall oversee implementation of the judgment of this Court and the directions issued herein.
This Committee shall also make such further recommendations to the Chief Minister Punjab to undertake such measures as may be necessary to implement and enforce the directions and recommendations made in this judgment. The tenure of the Committee shall be one year from the date of its notification.
The Punjab government was also directed to retain the services of at least three experts having expertise in the fields of archeology and renovation, preservation and maintenance of antiquities and special premises. One of the experts shall be a person having expertise in structural engineering. All three experts will work as a Technical Committee with tenure of one year.
The court directed the Punjab government to take immediate steps to start repair and renovation work for which the requisite funds will be made available within thirty days from the date of this judgment.—APP