LAHORE – Restoration of Walled City Lahore (WCL), a project unique in its nature still awaits execution, technical assistance by Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) and a strong assurance from the political leadership and administration at the highest level.
Under the project, vast area of historical importance will be restored to its original glory while ensuring provision of modern amenities and services.
Departments of Archaeology, Information and Culture, Auqaf, Tourism, PHA, City District Government and Evacuee Property Trust Board are mandated to join hands in executing the project. The authorities had earlier announced starting the work in May, but the reluctance shown by the foreign consultants owing to security concerns jeopardised the plan, as they are still unwilling to travel to this part of world.
There are many impediments. The Education Department, which had been directed to shift 13 schools from Circular Gardens in 15 days, could not meet the deadline, while the Wasa too did not comply in shifting the 11 tube-wells. Another important part, the detailed final design of the Greater Iqbal Park is also pending due to the required final approval from Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif while no progress is insight regarding the proposed boundary wall around the Circular Gardens.
The WCL includes restoration of many historical landmarks and open spaces, is facing various inter-related hurdles such as adverse environmental conditions, neglect, encroachments and lack of conservation framework along with appropriate skills leading to unsuitable interventions.
The estimated cost of the project, Rs 862 million, is to be shared by the provincial government (Rs 502.00 million) and the World Bank with remaining allocation.
Currently, 25 per cent of the surveys have already been completed including existing infrastructure networks and 21,800 plots and buildings falling within the earmarked area.
The eminent writer and Director General WCL Orya Maqbool Jan is handling the matters. Orya says the historic cities require a package of incentives, infrastructure improvements and local investment within a private investment friendly climate.
He said cultural heritage is an economic resource and a base for the development of historic cores, which can function as an effective platform for private sector development and local enterprise to foster a range of employment opportunities.
DG WCL informed that the project would enhance tourism by preserving cultural assets, generating opportunities and improving social services.
Showing slides, he said around 1712 encroachments or 29 per cent of the Circular Garden area, equal to 14 per cent increase since 1987, would be removed.
Orya said a pre-feasibility study was conducted in 2006 by Raphael Gorgeux, funded by the Italian government, which provided the basis for evolving a project for re-generation of the walled city.
The DG WCL said no doubt that the project still needed executive measures, technical assistance and intense coordination of various agencies. “The requisite level of responsiveness can be ensured only through a strong political and administrative thrust from the provincial government at the highest level,” he maintained.
Another official requesting not to be identified told this scribe that people in general did not have a clear comprehension of the value of the place they are living and working in.
“The awareness about cultural heritage is high but limited mostly to the monuments.”
A Public Private Partnership Framework Agreement between the Government of Punjab and AKTC was also signed on July 2, 2007, under which AKTC will cooperate in various sectors like planning, joint implementation of projects and developing strategic plan for the WCL and technical assistance to the Lahore Museum.
The whole work will be carried out in various phases including redefining the walled city’s role with metropolitan Lahore, strategies and planning measures, which needed to retain provincial capital’s special identity and historic elements besides addressing the negative developments and current threats.
Long-term objectives include more residential use and improved traditional housing, reclaiming and enhancing green spaces, restoring monuments and well-managed cultural assets. Improved educational and health facilities would also be considered under the project.
Besides many other features, authorities are also considering to connect Minto Park to the Walled City. The Circular Garden will also be reclaimed by creating a pedestrian promenade around the south and east edge of the fort besides establishing visitor routes connecting the principal monuments and commercial areas.
Besides all these facilities, an efficient transport system will also be created at metropolitan level while goods and transport terminals are also supposed to be relocated.
Source: The Nation