LAHORE: The UNESCO ‘s World Heritage Committee released draft decision on Shalimar Gardens and Orange Line Metro Train clearly mentions that OLMT poses an irreversible and permanent threat to Shalimar Gardens which is a World Heritage Site, and it may be taken off from World Heritage register permanently if the project goes ahead as planned.

The World Heritage Committee released the draft decision keeping in view the longstanding debate on transportation led development project of PML-N Punjab Government that are doing construction inside the 61m protective buffer zone of the international heritage site of Shalimar Garden property violating international laws as well national antiquities act.

This draft decision will be finalized through a vote of  member  states  in  the  upcoming  WHC  meeting  in  July  2017. 

This was stated in press conference held on Friday at Lahore Press Club. Lahore Conservation Society Maryam Hussain , Former director NCA Rawalpindi Dr Nadeem Omar Tarar¸ ICOMOS Vice President Fauzia Qureshi, advocate Saroop Ijaz, painter and activist Dr. Ajaz Anwar were present on the occasion.

The World Heritage Committee in its draft decision urged the State Party (Punjab Government) to immediately suspend without delay any further work in the immediate vicinity of Shalamar Gardens. It requested the State Party to identify an alternative location for the OLMT and deeply Regrets that the Reactive Monitoring Mission was not invited (that is not given visas by the Pakistan Government) as requested by the World Heritage Committee.

It expressed utmost concern that the Department of Archaeology & Museums (Punjab) issued a NOC for the OLMT and highlighted that  Pakistan  Government  has  not  complied  with  the  requests  made  by  the  Committee, nor proposed any clear way forward Considers the fact that construction work undertaken and planned for the OLMT represents a threat to the OUV of the property.

It deeply  regretted that  no  exhaustive  impact  assessment  was  undertaken  for  the  OLMT  or  Visual  Impact  Study as requested by the World Heritage Committee and requests  the  State  Party  to  carry  out  a  comprehensive  Heritage  Impact  Assessment  in  line  with WHC/ICOMOS  guidelines  including  a  Visual  Impact  Study  to  inform  the  search  for  alternative  locations .

It expressed concern  that  the  Supreme  Court  will  likely  issue  a  decision  on  the  OLMT  Project  before  the  requested  Reactive  Mission  has  been  given  a  chance  to  visit  the  property  and  requests  the  Pakistan Government to issue the necessary visas.

Lahore Conversation Society said that draft decision expected  delisting  of  Shalamar  Gardens & Lahore Fort will jeopardize future support (technical and financial) from UNESCO, the World Bank and the IMF; seriously compromising the future of heritage tourism revenues to the tune of billions of dollars annually.

In the light of above decision ‘ICOMOS Pakistan’ and the civil society strongly urges  the  Pakistan  Government  to  recognize  its  responsibility  to  its  citizens  and  heritage legacy in which they take extreme pride  and modify the OLMT Project in line with  international  guidelines  for  heritage  protection. 

The  Government  is  urged  to  honor  the  country’s  international  commitment  made  through  signing  of  the  UNESCO  World. 

ICOMOS  Pakistan  contends  that  no  government  has  the  mandate  or  right  to  deprive  future  generations  of  their  fundamental  rights  to  their  heritage  and  history.

Unesco’s approved formal  scientific  advisory  bodies  including ICOMOS and  ICCROM gave findings on Orange Line Metro Train to WHC includes  that OLMT  will  irreversibly  compromise  the  authenticity  and  integrity  of  the  property  and  will  be  a  potential threat to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). That the full impact of the project on the OUV of the Shalimar  Gardens  goes  beyond potential vibration impact.

The Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) provided to the WHC by the Pakistan State Party is not in line with international standards and fails to address the full range of impacts of the project. 4. 

It is not clear on what grounds the State Party decided that the OLMT would have no negative impacts on the OUV of the property, nor on what basis the Punjab Department of Archaeology issued a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) for this project.

In the absence of any mitigation measures proposed by the State Party, it recommended that the Committee immediately inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

It recommended that the Committee requests the State Party to invite a Reactive Monitoring Mission to define comprehensive mitigation measures and reverse threats to the property. It recommended that the Committee request the State Party to immediately stop construction work on the section of OLMT where it approaches Shalamar Gardens.