Preservation standards being ignored in Chauburji restoration


–Architects allege ‘originality of site being tampered under CM’s orders’

–Archaeology deputy director says conservation in line with international standards


LAHORE: The preservation and restoration work on the centuries-old monument – Chauburji – is being continued without following the standards of preservation, Pakistan Today has learnt.

With the restoration work nearing conclusion and all set to be completed by next month at a cost of Rs43.84 million, sources informed Pakistan Today that the Archaeology Department had neglected all the standards which were to be followed. They said that no alterations are to be made during the restoration or preservation of any monument but the department was making unnecessary changes.

“The conservation and management plan for the monument was made while ignoring the spirit of preservation rules,” they said.

It may be noted that under the preservation project, the department is to restore the fine brick masonry, kankar lime plaster, brick tile cornice as per the original design, brick tile dassa including the floral design, Ghalibkaari work in geometrical designs and tile mosaic work (Kashikaari) as per the original design and colours. The project also includes the restoration of lime terracing, red sandstone grill, wooden doors, lime pointing, iron fencing around the protected area and the brick tiles on edge flooring in special design square pattern.

Architect Maryam Hussain was of the view that due to the negligence of authorities concerned, Chauburji had been modified. “It is unfortunate and in conflict with any and all basic conservation principles. Chauburji has in fact been destroyed. The deliberate and calculated replacement of the historic fabric with new material and tiles has devalued the site altogether,” she said and added that the authorities were replacing the original material following the orders of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who wanted the site to look good from the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT).

She said the authenticity of the site was lost and so was the value of Chauburji as a heritage asset. “It exposes the fact that either the Archaeology Department has no understanding of its job or it is not an independent body,” she said. She also said that the department must be held accountable for not fulfilling its mandate and for permanently destroying a heritage asset.

Conservationist Sajjad Kausar told Pakistan Today that the Archaeology Department had started decorating the fourth pillar of Chauburji which had fallen in 1960 and was restored later. He also said that the conservationists back then had avoided decorating it so that the original decoration was not tampered. “Conservation is an ongoing process. It is not just about the part that needs to be conserved,” he said.

Archaeology Department Deputy Director Malik Maqsood while rejecting the criticism said that prior to devising a conservation plan for the project, a committee of experts had held several meetings and the preservation was in line with all the international standards of conservation.

He also said that UNESCO had also held a training session at the monument in collaboration with the University of THAAP, where the conservation work was inspected.