The meeting agenda of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) reveals that it will add the Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens to its list of World Heritage in Danger. If the committee adds these two sites to the list, it will be another tale of government’s little care for the preservation of culture and heritage. Unfortunately, neither the federal government nor any provincial government has devised any concrete policy on maintenance of our cultural heritage.

It is worth recalling that several individuals, environmental activists and Lahore Bacho Tehreek (LBT) raised their concerns regarding the project’s impact on the cultural heritage of Lahore. However, the provincial government ignored their protests and suggestions of alternative routes for the orange line metro project. The current path of the Orange Line that violates Section 22 of the Antiquities Act 1975 and Punjab Special Premises Preservation Ordinance 1985. Under these laws, no development plan or scheme or new construction on or within a distance of 200 feet of a protected immovable antiquity shall be undertaken or executed.

The provincial government is responsible for endangering and leaving an irreversible impact on values relating to the artistic and aesthetic accomplishments exemplified by these sites. Thanks to the contempt and ignorance of the provincial government and officials shown to the opinion of the experts, Lahore Fort and Shalamar gardens will lose their authenticity. And LBT had no choice but to inform United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) about the violations for its protests were ignored.

Where and how did the government fail? The provincial authorities misunderstood the protests of the activists as their resistance to the development project while they were warning the government to consider alternate routes for the project before it took irreversible decisions. Since the protests and expert opinions fell on deaf ears, our cultural heritage will bear the shocks and vibrations of the trains that will commute the passengers across Lahore.