LAHORE – Garbage, waste and encroachments along the boundary wall of Shalimar Gardens have not only damaged the historical place but also marred the beauty of already decaying building of the garden, a survey conducted by this scribe revealed on Sunday.

Heaps of garbage turned the different parts of the garden into dumping sites as it was witnessed that residents, shopkeepers of the surrounding localities were throwing their waste along the boundary wall and into the galleries of the garden.

The pathetic aspect of throwing or dumping garbage along the boundary wall was that the citizens had no idea of the importance of garden.

The departments concerned especially archaeology department, which was not responsible for its conservation, maintenance, renovation and cleanliness also seemed lethargic and negligent in this regard and the authorities perhaps less bothered on all such matters assigned them by government, said an official of the department on the condition of anonymity.

However, the garbage-filled balconies of the garden exposed their performance and caring attitude, claimed by them towards the conservation of important historical buildings of the City, he further said adding that Solid Waste Management and the Shalimar Town Administration equally were responsible for the destruction of the outer side or boundary wall of the garden because they did nothing for removing or lifting industrial and animal waste and garbage.

He said some area along the boundary wall had been encroached by different pushcart and other vendors since long and such practice was unchecked by the authorities concerned. However, the officials of the town concerned were supporting these vendors against some money, he added.

“The archaeology department has been assigned conservation and renovation of the garden by the government under UNOs International Heritage Conservation Plan, which still is pending due to the lethargy of the authorities of the department despite having enough funds released by international organisation,” the official further maintained.

When tried to contact, the officers concerned for their version, they were reluctant to talk on this issue whereas the officials of garden administration were also not available.

The Punjab Archaeology Department had presented a plan of conservation in 2005 with huge budget of Rs 300 million which was to be completed in eight years. After approving the budget, the department had imported red stone of Rs 20 million to repair the damaged parts made of the red stone. The department did some work including repair of walkways, pavilions (Baradari) and four out of six towers by spending 40 per cent of its allocated budget.

An official of the department told TheNation that they had also paid a sum of Rs 50 million to Wasa to secure the garden from rainwater by making waterways outside the boundary wall of the garden. He said the working process of preservation was slow due to sensitivity of work. He further said they could not use any machine while repairing historical monuments to ensure the originality.

“We try our best to save the art and craft on such sites by using the techniques of Mughal architecture,” he said adding, that as the conservation of monuments was a very special operation, different from the requirement of modern structures, artisans trained in these crafts were very much required to achieve desired results.

The World Heritage Monument was put on the list in 1999. The decision came soon after the then Shahbaz government, to widen GT Road, removed the hydraulic system built by the Mughals. The UNESCO missions have since been visiting these monuments every three years to assess their condition.

The Shalimar Gardens made it to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1981 but with the 1998 demolishing of the unique hydraulic works system of Shalamar Gardens these monuments were removed from that.