Old Lahore at the mercy of monsoons

Heritage buildings and homes in the walled city face ongoing collapse risk with the approaching rainy season

Muhammad Ilyas June 25, 2024


Where the regal architecture of colonial constructions spanning the Walled City usually elevates the touristic appeal of the provincial capital, the dilapidated nature of the centuries-old heritage buildings has started scaring away even the generational residents ahead of the upcoming monsoons, which could turn princely properties into plain dust within a matter of seconds.

With the onset of the monsoon season from July onwards, countless pre-partition buildings in areas like Delhi Gate, Lohari Gate, Yakki Gate, Kashmiri Bazar and Akbari Mandi are once again at risk of collapse however, the supervisory body, the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has still not been able to take any concrete steps towards restoring or demolishing the constructions, which perpetually threaten the lives of the nearby locals.

Unfortunately, the authorities only issue evacuation notices to the inhabitant families, many of whom have to face the deadly repercussions of a sudden collapse since the narrow layout of streets in the area make a rescue operation extremely cumbersome, leading to an instant loss of precious lives.

“Since the structure of our house had become unusually tumbledown, me and my family were forced to move out to save our lives. But no one from the government has neither seriously considered the issue nor offered any assistance till date,” lamented Chaudhary Imran, a resident of Old Lahore.

According to Junaid Mansoor, Assistant Director Building Control of the Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) almost 1300 buildings in the inner city are in dire need of repair out of which 400 buildings require demolition while 20 of these buildings are in an extremely dangerous state and may collapse at any time. “All of these buildings are privately owned, and notices have been issued to the residents and owners of these buildings. While some buildings have been renovated, the Haveli Kabuli Mahal and Rang Mahal High School are in rack and ruin. Notices have been issued to the management to repair them,” said Mansoor.

According to information received by the Express Tribune from the DC Office Lahore, a survey is conducted by the government every year and according to an estimate, three to four billion rupees are required for the construction and repair of old buildings. However, given the unavailability of such massive funds, every year these houses, which date back to the era of Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, are left at the mercy of the monsoons.

Speaking to the Express Tribune on the matter, Syed Faizan Naqvi, a researcher in Lahore said,” The WCLA has declared two types of buildings as heritage; those which signify a historical event and others which commemorate a notable person. More than 1000 buildings in the city are at least 100 years old.

According to the rules of the WCLA, the building structure of protected and 100-year-old buildings cannot be changed and they cannot be demolished and rebuilt. Due to this, many buildings are in a dilapidated condition. Additionally, there are some buildings where multiple refugee or impoverished families are living. In this case, one or two residents of the building alone can neither repair the building themselves nor sell it.”


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