SC shows green flag to Lahore metro train

ISLAMABAD –  The Supreme Court on Friday with a majority of four against one allowed the Orange Line Metro Train project to proceed with 31 conditions and directions.

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and including Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, had reserved the judgment on the matter almost eight months ago in April.

The conditions imposed by the court are meant to protect, preserve and renovate the 11 heritage sites that fall along the train route.

As per the court order, experts will not only continuously monitor vibration levels during the construction period but a system of permanent monitoring and oversight would work during the train operation to ensure no harm is caused to the monuments.

The court has also ordered the relevant authorities to make sure the project structures, like train stations, are in complete harmony with the monuments and special areas.

It has further ordered anti-encroachment measures and establishment of green belts around the protected places.

NESPAK, Lahore Development Authority, Punjab Transit Authority and Punjab government had filed appeals against a Lahore High Court judgement in on the matter. The LHC had set aside the NOC issued by the Archaeology Department and ordered to stop the work on the multi-billion dollar train project within 200 feet of 11 heritage sites in the provincial capital.

The apex court set aside the Lahore High Court impugned judgment and allowed the instant appeals. It unanimously dismissed the Civil Petition (No.3101-L of 2016) and refused the leave to appeal.

Justice Maqbool Baqar wrote a dissenting note in the majority judgment which endorsed and approved the NOCs/permission letters issued by the competent authorities and the recommendations of experts relating to execution, mitigation and remedial measures required to be adopted by the executing agency.

The court directed the provincial government to set up Rs100 fund for the repair and renovation of the 11 heritage sites.

It also ordered Punjab government to form two technical committees within 30 days to oversee technical aspects of the project.

A broad-based special committee will be chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge and comprise Archaeology DG, an Archaeology professor from University of the Punjab, UET Lahore’s head of structural engineering department and a senior professor nominated by NCA.

It shall oversee implementation of the judgment of the apex court and determine if any of the heritage buildings have suffered any damage from construction work on the project.

The other committee will assess any losses suffered due to the suspension of construction work because of the LHC decision.

Conditions imposed by sc

*          The appellant shall make all necessary arrangements to ensure that the monuments remain stable and undamaged in all respects during the execution of the project.

*          Vibration monitoring shall be undertaken as part of the monitoring plan using the crack measure devices during the construction, and for an additional period of 10 weeks or some other suitable duration as determined by the director general of Archaeology.

*          If the vibration levels at any stage of the construction or train operation exceed safe limits, it shall immediately be discontinued and remedial action taken.

*          Technical experts shall remain present and continuously monitor vibrations levels at the heritage/special sites. If work is stopped by experts, it shall not restart sans their written clearance.

*          An independent and experienced conservation engineer shall monitor the project during construction and operation, and submit monthly reports to the advisory committee, which shall give recommendations to Archaeology DG to ensure protection of the antiquities or protected premises.

* On completion of project, the train shall be operated on experimental basis for at least two weeks on the entire route to examine vibration levels. Commercial operation shall not commence unless written clearance is given by the experts.

* The speed of the train shall be reduced while passing near the monuments, as recommended by Archaeology DG, from time-to-time on the basis of data made available to it.

* State-of-the-art vibration-measuring equipments shall permanently be installed at suitable places for recording and maintaining vibration levels, which shall be regularly checked by a responsible officer.

* Special teams of qualified experts shall be set up to periodically inspect all special premises. Any damage or deterioration shall be reported to Archaeology DG, who shall take remedial steps.

* Recommendations of the advisory committee shall be placed before the DG, who shall ensure their compliance.

* Where excavation is necessary it shall be carried out in a way that it would not affect any structure or foundation of the antiquities. In case of any adverse impact, the work or train operation shall be stopped forthwith and all possible remedial measures shall be taken.

* The executing agency shall install accelerometers, velocity transducers, noise detectors and vibration-measuring equipment near the antiquities and special premises.

* A dedicated hotline shall be set up and telephone numbers prominently displayed in public areas around all special premises for reporting damage or deterioration observed by the public or tourists.

* If any report of damage is received by Archaeology DG, it shall be investigated within seven days and repair/renovation commenced within 30 days.

* No building material or equipment shall be stored/stockpiled within protected area of the monuments.

* No change shall be made in the alignment of the track which brings any part of it nearer to the monuments than the distances set out hereinabove.

* Dust pollution during construction shall be controlled through extensive sprinkling of water and other means.

* The design of the viaduct and nearby stations in terms of colour and designing shall be in harmony with the setting and appearance of the monuments. The decorative motifs of the monuments shall be replicated on the nearby train stations/structures.

* The areas around the monuments (including Chauburji Gateway and Zaibun Nisa’s Tomb) should be properly attended and developed into greenbelts.

* The hydraulic tank of Shalamar Garden shall be restored, as far as possible, to its original position and the surrounding area will be converted into a green area. Structures on the southern side of the garden shall be camouflaged through construction of a wall. A buffer zone shall be created around the garden.

* The respondents shall in consultation with the Unesco and other international agencies shall prepare phase-wise plan to control and monitor urban encroachments and the process of creating buffer zone around the Shalamar garden.

* All future projects which directly, indirectly and incidentally involve antiquities or heritage sites shall in the first instance be widely publicised through print and electronic media at least six months prior to proposed date of commencement of the project and public hearings shall be conducted to hear objections.

* For all future projects, NOCs, licences, approvals and permissions as required by law shall be obtained before work on the project site is commenced.



SC shows green flag to Lahore metro train


Terence J Sigamony

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