–LDA resumes construction work without appointing experts at the sites
–No safety measures for labourers working at the project
LAHORE: The government of Punjab has resumed construction work on the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project in violation of the Supreme Court’s conditions that were agreed upon when permission to continue work near historical sites was granted, Pakistan Today has observed.
The SC on December 08, 2017 had permitted the Punjab government to resume work on the OLMT project in a petition by the government pertaining to the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict to halt the project near 11 heritage sites. It also directed the Punjab government to constitute two committees within 30 days to oversee the technical aspects of the project or to monitor the construction work. The court had set 31 conditions with regards to the work near the historical sites of the city.
The 11 sites are Chauburji, Saint Andrew Church, GPO building, Zeb-un-Nisa Tomb, Supreme Court Registry Branch, Aiwan-e-Auqaf, Shalimar Gardens, Budhu ka Awa, Baba Mauj-e-Daria shrine, Lakshmi Building and Shah Chiragh Building.
However, instead of following the directions of the apex court, the executing body of the OLMT project, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) resumed construction work on the project without following the conditions mentioned in the verdict. SC had ordered the LDA to constitute two committees of experts but soon after getting the green signal, the construction work was resumed without appointing any expert at the sites.
In its conditions, the SC had ordered that technical experts would be present at the sites during the construction phase in the vicinity of the antiquities and special premises with all necessary equipment for monitoring the vibration levels. While it also directed if vibration levels exceeded the acceptable limit, then work would be stopped immediately and remedial measures would be taken to the satisfaction of the experts and further work shall not be commenced unless a written clearance for the resumption of work is given by the experts. But, the LDA resumed work at all the sites without assigning any technical experts.
The machinery installed near Chauburji was found creating huge vibrations but no expert or official was present at the site to monitor the situation, it was observed.
At least seven heritage sites are present alongside the 1.7 km underground route of the project whereas five sites are present only at Nabha Road (GPO Chowk to Tax Office).
The LDA has installed the machinery at Nabha Road to construct underground route; the authority has demolished the boundary wall of the historic General Post Office (GPO) building, besides installing machinery inside the premises of the building, while no authority took notice of the matter.
The SC in its conditions clearly mentioned that the executing body will restore the Hydraulic Tank of Shalamar Garden to its original position and the surrounding area will be converted into a green area.
But with no regard for the conditions of the court’s verdict, the LDA in its construction work damaged the walls of the Hydraulic Tank, which was damaged during the digging for the pillar at the said site. Moreover, after the damage was done, the contractor of the project covered the Hydraulic Tank by filling it with concrete without bringing it into the knowledge of relevant experts.
LDA Board of Directors’ member MPA Rana Arshad had claimed in an interview that the LDA was following all the terms and conditions set by the SC. He had also claimed that work was undergoing in line with the international parameters set for historical buildings, whereas Punjab government had formed the committee of the experts to monitor the construction work as well.
In addition to that, the project authority had to sprinkle water at the route, but the work is being continued without sprinkling water.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Advocate Azhar Siddique said that Punjab government was committing a severe violation of the Supreme Court orders, which directed the government to observe extra caution while working in the vicinity of the heritage site; however, the government was blatantly ignoring all these conditions.
“As per the Antiquity Act, no authority is allowed to make any change within 200 feet of the heritage site. But in the case of the OLMT, the authorities have not only demolished the boundary wall of the GPO but they have also entered the premises of the building,” he said.
The LDA has decided to cover the Nabha road by installing fibre walls to continue construction, where it will damage all the historical buildings present at this road, though hidden from the eyes of the masses, he claimed.
Moreover, all the labourers can be seen working without taking any safety measures. It is pertinent to mention here that around 23 labourers have been killed in different incident since the start of the OLMT construction work.
A concerned official of the Archaeology Department refused to comment over the violation being carried out by the LDA.
LDA Chief Engineer Asrar Saeed was not available for comment over the matter.