Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has refuted all claims that the Chauburji gateway is to be demolished for the Orange Line Metro train, although protest against construction near the monument in Lahore continues.

According to the CM, it is Punjab’s government principled decision that no site of historic and cultural heritage significance, including Chauburji, GPO and Saint Andrews Church, would be harmed. The pressing question remains, what is after all the Punjab government’s definition of “harm”?

Monuments are an integral part of our history and our heritage. They represent great achievements in art and architecture, and the need to preserve and protect them is the fundamental right of every civilization that is proud of its history and culture. Chauburji is one of the most famous monuments among the structures and buildings of the Mughal era in the city of Lahore. In the historic city of Lahore, on the road that led southwards to Multan, the Chauburji gateway remains of an extensive garden known to have existed in Mughal times.

The demolition of the historic landmark was never in question. But, the fact remains that the Orange Train Route violates both the Antiquities Act 1975 & The Special Premises Preservation Ordinance 1985. Not only does the overhead train project obscure the view of the monument, but the pylons of the train are within the Roundabout of Chauburji, when as per law, a minimum distance of 200 feet must be observed.

It is heartening to observe the reaction of the civil society who have so diligently moved to protect the aforementioned sites. On October 29, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a session in Lahore took up the cases of the heritage sites that were at risk, including Chauburji, Shalamar Gardens and the General Post Office (GPO). Activists that demonstrated in front of the gateway maintain an elevated track would not just obscure the view of the monument but also that the vibrations from the train would damage the monument over the years. The digging work underway at the site might have already damaged the foundations of the building and hence outdated construction methods should not be deployed near the protected sites.

The government still has a chance of protecting these precious tokens from history and changing the route of the Orange Line metro. Why is it that development cannot go hand in hand with preserving our nature, history and culture? Is it really necessary to turn the city into a concrete jungle? Does Punjab have no other problems where the money being spent on Lahore’s roads can be redirected to?