Growing population of the provincial capital has caused a shortage of cemeteries in the city but the Punjab government, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and local government department have not come up with any significant plan to solve the problems faced by the citizens in laying to rest their loved ones.
Official record shows that there are 845 graveyards in the 274 union councils of Lahore under the local government department. However, there is no space left for burial in most of the cemeteries and new graves are being built by removing the old and unclaimed ones.
Complaints of new graves having replaced those visited by families of the deceased after a long time are common but the union councils have not set up new cemeteries on public or private space.
Committees have been formed for the purpose and disbanded several times but new cemeteries have not been planned.
The second largest authority responsible in this regard is the LDA, whose law enshrines allocation of space for a cemetery for every approved private housing society.
According to sources, land for mosques, hospitals, parks, schools and cemeteries is allocated in view of the by-laws for getting approved of the maps of the private housing societies but residential and commercial plots are created on their sites after the approval and sold allegedly with the connivance of some officials. The malpractice leads to problems for the residents after the development of the housing schemes.
The people are thus forced to bury their family members in the old cemeteries.
The managements of some large housing societies only allow the burial of members and their family members in their graveyards, while unauthorised persons are not allowed to be buried there.
There are 334 approved housing societies in Lahore in addition to dozens of illegal ones.
Amid the problems faced by the citizens, Punjab government has prepared 22 schemes for the construction and repair of cemeteries in the annual budget for 2021-22 which an estimated cost of Rs220 million. However, the allocation for Lahore under the head is negligible, although the condition of more than 1,000 cemeteries in the city is deteriorating. Even in Miani Sahib, the largest cemetery in Lahore, there is no place for new graves, while the population of the city has grown to over 12.5 million.
The previous government had established the Shehr-e-Khamoshan authority to address the issue but it failed to bring any positive results.
The current government abolished the authority after coming to power but no new strategy for building new cemeteries has emerged since then. LDA's performance in ensuring cemeteries in private housing schemes is also disappointing.
Punjab government has now formed a committee including provincial ministers and the commissioner of Lahore to beautify the city. The committee also includes the directors general of the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) and LDA. It is expected to not only help improve the environment of the city but also the provision of municipal facilities, including graveyards.
Lahore Commissioner Captain (retd) Muhammad Usman said while speaking to The Express Tribune that the local bodies department was working to overcome the shortage of cemeteries in the provincial capital and other areas of Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2021.
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