12 years on, Shalimar Gardens’ conservation lies in limbo


–Import of red sandstone from India, lack of skilled labour, financial discrepancies mar progress on restoration project

–DGM&E also expresses reservations over project, recommends proper planning to avoid further delays

LAHORE: Despite the passage of twelve years and having the required budget, the Punjab Archaeology Department has failed to complete the conservation and restoration work of Shalimar Gardens, a listed World Heritage Site (WHS) suffering owing to the negligence of the authorities concerned.

As per the details, a scheme titled “Five Year Programme for Preservation and Restoration of Shalimar Gardens Lahore” was approved at an estimated cost of Rs300 million in 2006 and in 2017 the same was revised with its PC-I costing Rs290.590 million.

“The conservation of the historical monument depends upon the supply of red sandstone from India which is needed to restore its decayed facade. The process of importing stone took a long time but the supply was finally released at the end of June 2015. However, the physical work on the scheme had started in February 2007,” sources said while speaking of PC-I cost revision.

They added that conservation of the monument is a special task as it includes carving of red sandstone inlaid with white marble. “It is a slow process and unfortunately skilled labour in this craft is not readily available which has also affected the pace of restoration work.”

“Due to the slow nature of work and lack of skilled labour, the conservation work could not be completed within the approved gestation period and the scheme was revised with its gestation period being enhanced up to June 2020,” sources said.

They said that the project remained less funded during its gestation period as the releases are lesser than the planned allocation as per revised PC-I. The total expenditure of the project from its commencement in January 2006 till the end of June 2018 remained Rs166.859 million which is 57.52% of the revised cost of PC-I.

“Other than its conservation lying in limbo, poor maintenance has also ruined the landscape of the Shalimar Gardens as garbage can be seen lying around which leaves a bad impression on tourists,” they added.

Meanwhile, Directorate General Monitoring and Evaluation (DGM&E) has also expressed its reservations over the conservation project. According to a report released by DGM&E, financial discrepancies mar the restoration of the WHS.

“The componentwise expenditures of the restoration work are Rs166.859 million while the year wise expenditures are 156.116 million which shows the discrepancy in financial details. The details and documents of procurement of goods were not provided by the department,” the report said.

DGM&E has also observed and recommended the Archaeology Department that the project designs and planning should be done properly before the execution to avoid any further delays in its completion.

“The project funds should be released properly and timely efforts must be made to complete the scheme within planned time to get maximum benefits from the intervention. In general, the Archeology Department should devise a mechanism to calculate the consumption of red sandstone for all archeological sites in Punjab for the next five years to avoid wastage of time” the report said.

Speaking to Pakistan Today, Punjab Archaeology Department Deputy Director Malik Maqsood said restoration of the Shalimar Gardens was an ongoing project. “It is to be completed by the year 2020 and we are putting in our all-out efforts for the purpose,” he said.