LAHORE - A committee comprising officials and the representatives of the Lahore Conservation Society will address cultural and social hazards linked to the ongoing Orange Line Metro Train Project in the Punjab capital.

A meeting between the representatives of the Society and the officials yesterday decided to share the input for addressing the concerns. The Society, however, demanded halt to the work on the project till a review of said problems completes. The government side agreed to talk but did not concede on halting the work.

The Society, a united forum of Lahore Bachao, Park Bachao, Shajardost among many other Lahore-based NGOs, has been up in arms against this $1.65billion project. It had serious reservations on the loss of national heritage, threat to citizens’ safety, property, environment and privacy.

Featuring well known architects like Nayyar Ali Dada, Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Ms Imrana Tiwana and Dr Aijaz Anwar, Prof Fauzia Qureshi, and Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, the body also raised concerns at the threats to the historic character of the city and further loss to country’s image at the global level if the city failed to retain cultural lustre. Previously, the Society wanted the project to be completely underground on the pattern of UK, Germany and Japan. It is now inclined to talk with government the problems attached with the present situation of the project.

Chief Minister’s Adviser Khwaja Ahmad Hassan, who is likely to get Lord Mayorship of the city next month, led the government team comprising MNA Pervez Malik, MPA Zaeem Qadri, MD Nespak, Secretary Information, Commissioner Lahore, Deputy Coordination Officer, DG Lahore Development Authority and other high officials.

“Work on the project will carry on. Suggestions and concerns of the Society will duly be entertained after the agreed dialogue process started”, Khwaja Ahmad Hassan told The Nation.

He said the commissioner will head the official committee to talk concerns with the Society. “The government will appreciate the positive suggestions from the renowned professional architects in the Society,” he added.

“The best technical expertise has been used for conversing historical buildings around the route with the guidance of archaeologists.”

Briefing the meeting, LDA’s chief engineer said the project is designed to acquire minimum land from the people. “The train will run underground saving historical buildings of Saint Andrews Church along with Lakshmi Building, GPO, Supreme Court Registry, Shah Chiragh, Mauj Darya Darbar and Masjid. This will cost four times more than the original at these points,” he added.

On 40ft high and 12meter wide track the train will run at 80km per hour speed which will cause no loss to the historical buildings, according to the LDA official.

NESPAK MD Amjad Ali Khan said Lahore is situated near fault line of earthquake and complications could have cropped up, had the project been designed completely underground. Imrana Tiwana said, “We will hold dialogue with the government on our reservations.” She said the government has given them a commitment to go ahead with the project in consultation with the Society.

However, she said, they (government) wanted halt to work on the project to enable the society go through the documented plan which has gone through many changes from the original. “We are hopeful that our concerns will be addressed,” she added.

“The reservations expressed by the societies remained unaddressed and the government adamant to go with this mega project as it is,” said Dr Ijaz Anwar, secretary information of the Society. “Civil Society activists were uncompromising in their demand that work on the Orange Line Metro be stopped immediately and reviewed.”

Orange line, a unique project in the city, is 27km long with about 25km elevated. Completing with the technical assistance of the Chinese engineers, the project will run from Raiwind to Wara Gujjran, about 10km before the Wahga border. It will pass through the congested and busy business areas of the city and targets travelling facilities to 2.5 lakh citizens daily.