The Orange Line project in Lahore has seen its fair share of controversy and protests. People have demanded that the rail have new route since it disrupts the lives of so many and also poses a tremendous risk to monuments.
But the government didn’t care for the haters. They just blocked out the ‘unnecessary voices’ and started construction… well, until the Lahore High Court suspended the construction of the Orange Line, on August 19.
Here’s a look back at the controversial journey of the Orange Line metro train:
One of the first casualties of the Orange Line was the only remaining Jain Temple in Lahore.
The Jain Temples in Lahore were a reminder of the city’s old life and colors. Even though the temple was no longer used as one, it was an important monument, it added character to Anarkali bazaar. It’s really sad to see the government so ruthlessly tearing down buildings of tremendous historic and cultural significance. With the demolition of this structure, there are no more Jain temples in the city of Lahore.
This picture, supposedly of the remnants of the temple has been circulating in Indian news spheres as well as here in Pakistan.
The Lahore project also threatened the music studio of Pakistan’s greatest artists, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Khan’s Sargam Studios was proclaimed the latest target on the project in March but has yet to be pulled down since it’s current owner refuses to let it go. There have been many people wanting to buy the studio but its owner, Raza Shah, refused every time and rightly so. He holds Sargam Studios and all the music inside it sacred, as should the government of Punjab.
According to the planned route, a total of 25 monuments are set to be pulled down, with the Lahore Graveyard facing the highest threat of all.
All of this forces the question, did the government do any planning before the construction or did they just start building?
In most countries, there is a huge planning stage before anything is implemented. The environment, the people and the monuments are all major factors in this process. There are certain areas that are protected and then there are communities where construction must be carried out in such a way so as so to not disturb the current setting.
In Istanbul, for example, the traditional train does not operate in the old part of the city. However in that area, there is a tram that is operational instead. The renovation of the system was carefully planned out with experts in the field of preservation. Construction itself was slow and cautious, it was of the utmost importance to keep the old city pristine and intact. What stands before us today is the peaceful coexistence of the electric tram and the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire.
However in Pakistan, things had to be taken into the hands of society at large.
Campaigns such as Lahore Bachao Tehreek and the #RastaBadlo movement brought national attention towards the plight of heritage sights and the oversight that the government is committing against history. They organized many rallies and sit ins in places like Chaburji.
Their efforts were just rewarded when the Lahore High Court suspended construction near 11 heritage sites.
Lahore High Court stops orange line construction near 11 historic sites. Brilliant.
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) August 19, 2016
Unfortunately, this is news comes a little too late. In June a stay order was passed to protect the same 11 sites, however the government paid no need to this and 5 of these have had to face damage at the hands of the Orange Line construction.
Here’s what people on Twitter think
Orange Line is a story of wholesale land-grab in the history of Lahore. Schools, dispensaries,everything was demolished that came in the way
— z.khan (@zakrana) August 20, 2016
Cost of Orange line = 3 year development budget of Balochistan
— Abdul Samad Khan (@_samadkhan) August 20, 2016
LHC on Orange Line project incur escalation in project cost & complition delay another burden on exchequer. Sovereign guarantee loan by GOP.
— Zia Ul Islam (@UlRmamazia) August 20, 2016
The government of Punjab has decided to make Lahore a more ‘developed’ city but it seems as though they have put zero thought into the ‘other’ costs associated with it. Lahore’s beauty lies with its monuments and its rich history, something our Khadam-e-Aala is not really seeing. Well, here’s hoping things calm down now.