The government will need to remove a host of encroachers and line drains in order to restore and conserve four historic Walled City gates, besides finding funds for the work, officials told The Express Tribune.
Archaeology Department officials began restoring Sheranwala Gate in June and expect to be finished in November, said Anjum Saleem Qureshi, the department official in charge of the project. He said the plaster in the arch surrounding the brown metal gate was rapidly eroding and had to be restored first.
He said that the process had been slowed by the slow release of funds. He said that Rs800,000 of the Rs1.6 million budget for the restoration work had been used up and the rest was to be released soon. The total cost of restoring the four gates would be about Rs8.3 million, he said. “The project has not been included in the Annual Development Plan so there have been delays in the release of funds,” he said.
Qureshi said a proposal for the restoration of Bhati, Kashmiri and Lohari Gates was under consideration by the deputy secretary (Infrastructure) at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. These gates will be harder to restore, he said, because it will mean removing illegal structures and lining drains.
A major problem at Lohari Gate is the presence of open drains nearby, as close as 10 feet away. “It creates fissures in the foundations of side structures such as rooms and additional arches,” Qureshi said. The open drains would be lined with cement to prevent seepage.
He said several butchers, grocers and locksmiths had illegally set up shops by the gates and they dumped animal waste and garbage near the structures. These encroachments would need to be removed and this would take some time, he said.
Qureshi said that plaster made from the same material as the original plaster used in the structure would be used for restoration work. The mortar between their red stone bricks and fading frescoes would be restored. The gates, which are currently made of cheap metal or light wood, would be replaced with structures similar to those in the Mughal era.
He said that fixing Bhati and Kashmiri Gates would take four months each, while restoring Lohari would take up to eight months. That does not include fresco work, which would take longer, he said. A Water and Sanitation Agency official assigned the task of surveying the area and estimating the cost of lining the drains with concrete told The Express Tribune that he did not believe that seeping sewage was such a big problem. “The encroachers, the residents and the legacy of past, defective conservation attempts are much bigger problems,” he said.
Officers of the Walled City Restoration Project are nominally responsible for the restoration of the four Walled City gates, but the job has been handed over to the Archaeology Department because it has greater technical expertise in the area, sources involved in the project said. The job of restoring Delhi Gate, meanwhile, remains with the Walled City Restoration Project.
Only five of the 12 original gates of the Walled City still remain. Four of them were heavily altered by the British. Roshnai Gate, joining the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Masjid, remains the only one in its original state.
Bhati Gate, located at the southwest corner of the Walled City, was rebuilt by the British with a Western-style arch with rooms on each side replacing the original wooden gate with metal spikes, which is kept at the museum in the Lahore Fort. The rooms are now used by officers of Bhati Gate police station. It was named after the Bhatis, a Rajput family that lived in the city, by Mughal architect Amir Ayaz. Lohari Gate was rebuilt by Lord Montgomery in 1864 for the third time. Its name is derived from the nearby blacksmith market. It is also believed that it was called Lahori Gate during the Delhi Sultanate.
Historians believe that Kashmiri Gate, which is in the northeast section of the Walled City, was named so because it faces Kashmir, or after the thousands of Kashmiri carpet weavers in the city.
Khizri Gate was renamed Sheranwala after Sikh emperor Ranjit Singh ordered two caged lions placed by its sides in the seventeen century. The gate faces the River Ravi and was originally named after Khizer (Elias), who, is linked in legend to water and immortality.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.