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Orange Line: SC invites objections against two reports

Orange Line: SC invites objections against two reports

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday provided an opportunity to parties to come forward with objections, if any, against the two conflicting reports about the Rs45 billion Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project.

“There are two conflicting reports and we are issuing notices to the parties to furnish their objections, if they have any,” announced Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali before adjourning the proceedings until Dec 27.

A five-judge bench of the court was hearing a case based on four separate but identical petitions moved by the Punjab government, Lahore Development Authority, Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) and National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) against the Aug 19 order of the Lahore High Court (LHC) suspending construction work on the project within 200 feet of 11 heritage sites.

The order came on a petition filed by a civil society activist, Kamil Khan Mumtaz.

The heritage sites are the Shalamar Gardens, Gulabi Bagh Gateway, Buddhu ka Awa, Chauburji, Zebunnisa’s Tomb, Lakshmi Building, General Post Office, Aiwan-i-Auqaf, Supreme Court’s Lahore registry, St Andrews Presbyterian Church at Nabha Road and Baba Mauj Darya Bukhari’s shrine.

On Oct 14, the Supreme Court had appointed a commission comprising Messrs Typsa-Asian Consulting Engineers (Pvt) Ltd and Prof Robin Coningham, an expert in archaeology, to re-verify the two environmental assessment reports about impact of the project on the heritage sites formulated by Nespak in July 2015 and Feb 2016.

The two Nespak reports were relied upon by the Punjab government in the context of the Antiquities Act 1975 and the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance 1985.

Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the PMTA, submitted to the court on Wednesday that it might be allowed to continue with the construction work with an understanding that any structure erected in the interim period would be demolished in case of an adverse decision.

But Asma Jahangir, who appeared on behalf of the civil society as well as Azhar Siddique, requested the court to grant more time to come up with objections on the two technical reports.

In his report, Prof Coningham had declared the project in contravention of the Antiquities Act 1975 and said the execution of the project involved new constructions within 200 feet of at least five immovable antiquities protected under the act.

He concluded that the OLMT contravened clauses 22 and 23 of the act that prohibited construction of any development plan within a distance of 200 feet of a protected immovable antiquity as well as erection of bars, poles or piers to support project’s viaduct near five of the immovable antiquities.

His report added that Nespak, in its environmental assessment report of July 2015, had failed to consider the effects of vibration from the viaduct piers on two additional potentially affected buildings.

These include the surviving Mughal reservoir which forms part of the Shalamar Gardens — protected under the act — and the Lakshmi Building, protected by the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance 1985. This should be mitigated by the commissioning of a comprehensive and credible interdisciplinary heritage impact assessment exercise, the report said.

In its report, the Typsa Ltd concluded that Nespak reports appeared to be serious and complete from a structural point of view and relevant with respect to safety and stability of buildings both during the construction stage and during operation of trains.

The vibration levels at critical underground sites were within the allowable limits, the Typsa report said, adding that the vibration could always be controlled at the site by not allowing construction machines to work simultaneously near the heritage sites.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Civil Society Network, Malik Amir Abdullah, submitted a new petition that asked whether the high number of deaths in OLMT construction was in violation of constitutional rights.

The petitioner urged the court to order a complete injunction on the project to stop further deaths.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2016

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