LAHORE            -         Eroding walkways, dismembering floor-tiles, worn-out signboards, plastic-littered fountains, ugly makeshift tea and ice-cream stalls and poorly maintained grassy lawns are different scenes at the Shalamar Gardens, which define neglect, faced by the 17th century Mughal architecture masterpiece in the provincial metropolis.

The visitors are bemused to see the visible degradation of the historical site as the tiles on the walkways are dismantling fast, which are being used by vendors to balance their ice-cream and tea machines.

The makeshift ice-cream, tea and snack huts-erected unlawfully on the main uppermost terrace, spoil the serenity of the gardens and make lawns ugly as the visitor enters the main building from the southern gate.

The sign-boards, due to the criminal neglect of the staff, have eroded and the entrance gate pavilion has become a parking lot for vendors and van carts at night in connivance with the staffers.

Though most of the vegetation and fruit trees have vanished due to neglect and urbanisation over decades, no efforts are visible to preserve the beauty of the iconic gardens which are regarded as an artistic expression of the Mughal love for art and culture.

Shalamar Gardens, built in 1642 by Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan, is regarded as the masterpiece Mughal garden design and was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The renovation and preservation of the site is the responsibility of the Punjab Archaeology Department.

Mudassar Bokhari, a visitor said, “I am saddened to see that the very care is not being accorded to the Shalamar Gardens which is given to the Lahore Fort and adjacent archaeological sites by the Archaeology Department.” He lamented the fact that pollution due to digging, construction and motor-fumes was not being controlled in the area, which may cause erosion at a faster pace.

Manzoor Hussain Naz, an agriculturist from suburban Kamoke, urged the government to take notice of the poor condition of the beautiful gardens, adding that he was saddened to see litter everywhere on the pathways and the lawns. He said the gardens spoke volumes about the poor management as this may discourage tourists to visit the historical site.

Director Archaeology Malik Maqsood told that the department was about to launch a public facilitation centre at the Shalamar Gardens sites, adding that no funds had been provided by UNESCO for maintenance and upkeep of the historic gardens.

There was urgent need to pay attention to the sorry plight of the historic Shalamar Gardens; otherwise, it may further decay and fall easily into the pitfalls of oblivion.