Lahore’s new train system is devouring the very streets it is being built to serve. Civil society organizations, political leaders and workers being affected by the Orange Line Train Project, held a protest rally at GPO Chowk, showing unity among themselves and expressing resolve to fight tooth and nail against this Rs165 billion project. Campaigners are angry at the potential damage to historic buildings like the colonial-era General Post Office and several Christian churches.

The legality of the government putting their plans into action can be questioned. The Government’s lawyers have confirmed that they had not been given any documentation or instruction on how they should defend the case and will not appear in court lest the project be halted.

“The project is illegal as public money is involved in it but the government couldn’t get it approved from assembly,” said a lawyer Azhar Siddique.

There have been allegations that the Metro has been re-routed to poorer areas to avoid destroying houses owned by wealthy and influential politicians. The 27-kilometer long route is now by far the government’s biggest project and has China’s investment. Its high cost has brought greater scrutiny of its impact on the city’s landscape and increasing opposition from campaigners dedicated to conserving Lahore’s rich architectural heritage.

It is clear that this project is not only destroying heritage, but also will shatter the lives of individuals living near, from school for disabled children to small businesses. The government has claimed that they would be allotting another place to the children’s institute in question, but given their track record, one should not count on it. The people who are being affected on its route are not given enough time to even look for a place. The government will throw them out of their homes.

The official Environment Impact Assessment for the project has also stated that the city planners must set up systems that “enable continuous traffic flux and avoid congestion”. But the traffic is subject to no rules near the excavation and piling work. The result is only mayhem, noise and fumes.

This is not urban development; this is just the sheer desire to make Lahore look like Shanghai. There has been no respect for Lahore’s landscape, or for the people who will be effected by the construction. This project should have been made with local communities assistance. It would have taken longer, and been more expensive, but it would have been the right thing to do. There are ways to cities to grow without people having to lose their livelihoods.