The Orange Line Metro Train project has split public opinion and led to chaos for those local to the area. Those that oppose it talk of the detrimental effects on people that are being displaced or have had their livelihoods affected, and these are the people that The Nation has interviewed in this special report.
The heritage sites that are under threat as a result of the construction and the polluting factor of open construction pits and pools of stagnant water present are additional issues being raised as opposition to the project. Our first stop was Chauburji and the outlying shops. The chowk was covered with dust and piles of dirt were left uncovered, with deep ditches for the pillars dug around Chauburji. But strangely enough, the Archaeology Department had started restoration work on the site only two weeks ago, at a time when the government was under pressure from civil society organisations and the Supreme Court about its attitude over the Orange Line issue. Maryam Hussain, Associate Professor at the National College of Arts, and one of those working to raise awareness against the project writes, “The OLMT track is 27.1 km long. The population density of the area is 8,968 to 31,132 persons/sq km. Not included in this population data are shop owners and their employees, rarhivalay, chabayvalay, khokhayvalay… and their dependents; as a general rule each working person supports 6-8 dependents.”
The government on its part, maintains that heritage sites are not being affected, that the numbers for affectees used by civil society organisations are greatly exaggerated, and the ones that are, are being compensated their fair share. After a Lahore High Court ruling ordering a stay along 200 feet of 11 designated heritage sites premises, construction was stopped in various areas around the city. The Nation visited these areas over the course of two days in an attempt to determine whether the government was following the Lahore High Court’s directives, and the thoughts of the individuals who lived and worked in the vicinity to assess where they stand with regards to this controversial plan.