ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has specifically allocated Rs100 million for preserving heritage sites situated along the route of the Orange Line Metro Train in Lahore, NESPAK’s counsel Shahid Hamid told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
However, the court asked the provincial government to identify the damage caused to heritage sites and suggest remedial measure to protect them.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who is heading the five-judge bench, said there should be some solution for the damage to historical buildings.
The bench was hearing appeals against the Lahore High Court (LHC) judgment, which set aside the NOC issued by the Archaeology Department.
Justice Maqbool Baqir said there were missing links and a dearth of technical data.
He questioned whether the NESPAK report was deficient and if the model selected by the Punjab government was the correct one and the data provided by the appellants was correct.
Asma Jehangir, who represented Kamil Khan Mumtaz, an architect, showed pictures on projector of historical buildings affected by the project.
She contended that the metro train track would pass through the GPO in the city. However, the chief engineer denied the assertion and said that its demolition was never part of the plan.
He explained that although the original plan called for the demolition, it was changed after the intervention of the LHC.
“Now the track is on other side of the road,” he said.
Mustafa Ramaday, who is the counsel for the mass transit authority, also endorsed the chief engineer’s version.
Subsequently, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed asked the engineer to pledge in writing that no part of the GPO would be damaged.
Shahid Hamid said they were ready to provide such an undertaking in this regard.
Asma objected on the way the NOC was granted, arguing that the authorities had started work on the project and how could they expect the NOC to be issued subsequently.
According to her, the Pamela Rogers report was issued after the Punjab authorities had started work on the metro project.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that this was why they had called for discarding the earlier report, and sought a fresh one.
Asma said that her clients had no objection that the government was constructing Motorways or running the metro train, but the government should keep a balance and take steps for the upkeep of heritage sites.
She said it was an outrageous move to give the contract in violation of the law.
Asma explained that the purpose of keeping the construction at least 200 feet away from the historical sites was to keep the impact of vibration at a minimum level.
She said in the presence of a relevant law, the authorities should not have considered construction within 200 feet.
The former SCBA president said that the elevated station and the track would impair the visibility of Gulabi Bagh. But Justice Ijaz reminded her that the train track was in the middle of road.
Asma dispelled the impression that civil society had taken up the issue too late, saying that they had allowed the Punjab authorities a fair chance to make relevant amendments to avoid damaging historical buildings, but they had acted when the provincial government did not pay any heed to their demands.
She also feared that if the project was allowed to be completed in accordance with the Punjab government’s design, heritage sites in Lahore might be excluded in the list of World Heritage Sites.
The hearing of the case was later adjourned till Thursday (today).