New railway lines in Lahore could damage heritage sites, Pakistani activists warned.

Heavy machinery works near the shrine of Mauj Darya, covered in protective green fabric. A concrete wall reinforcing the foundations is visible below the shrine.

New railway lines in Lahore could damage heritage sites, Pakistani activists warned.
The men huddled in the rest of the marble courtyard, which had not been torn off by the bulldozer’s claws. They say that when they pass through the rough hemp joint, a cloud of smoke rises above them – for spiritual height. They shook their heads and struck at the drummer. Others jumped up, twirled, twisted, and celebrated the sofie saints in the shrines they worshipped.
Anyhow, on a recent Thursday night, in Mauj Darya temple of hundreds of believers to repeat such a tradition: the temple’s guardian said, this tradition in some form has occurred about 450 years.
But activists worry that the tradition may end with the shrine itself.
They say it is threatened by the 16-mile-long train route that the government is building in Lahore. The train route passes through 11 heritage sites – from Mauj Darya to the British colonial church to the UNESCO world heritage site, Shalimar Gardens. The head of the Lahore communications agency, hassan al-ahmad hasan, said he expects to deliver about half a million people a day within five years.
“I really keep my fingers crossed,” says Kamil Khan Mumtaz, an architect who has participated in an unsuccessful attempt to get on the train route. “It is close to the temple of Mauj Darya and it will break the foundation.”
The rest of the marble courtyard outside the Mauj Darya temple is dancing in the evening of the traditional ecstasy.
Train line is part of the plan of public transport network, so far, including a bus lines and two planned train routes, to service of Pakistan’s second largest population of more than 1100 residents of city of Lahore.
The subway line is under construction with more than $1.6 billion in loans, according to the head of the transportation department, hasan. He said the government had a seven-year grace period and then had 20 years to pay back, but the interest rate and other terms of the loan were not disclosed.
It is part of a multi-billion dollar loan from Pakistan to China. The government hopes the projects will change the country and modernize its economy. In return, China is seeking to build a trade corridor through Pakistan to the Arabian sea.
Heavy machinery works near the temple of Mauj Darya, covering the protective green fabric. Concrete walls that reinforce the base can be seen below the shrine.
Pakistani officials often keep the loans secret.
“The people of this country have been in darkness,” said Keith aslam, an economist at the central university of punjab. “The cost will be higher than the gains we get,” he said. “This is my future generation that must repay these loans.”
In addition to the expected debt, activists who oppose the rail link say future generations are facing the threat of losing something intangible: their sense of history.
Lahore residents living in the past the layers of chaos: the middle ages, the towering of the era of mughal mosque, Sophie temple, the British colonial architecture and decay of Hinduism and Sikh temple.
There is the temple of Mauj Darya. Tradition says he saved Lahore from the flood of rivers, reached out and turned the tide.
He that time is very prominent in the 15th century, even the mughal emperor akbar, mumtaz said: “barefoot to the law of the court,” Sophie gave up a worldly possessions.
Mr. Hassan of the Lahore transportation authority says engineers have strengthened the foundations of historic buildings. He said the train’s expected vibrations would not damage the sites.
Men walk through the trench to hold the subway near the Mauj Darya temple. Activists who oppose the train route say they are particularly unhappy with the ditches. They say the government has destroyed hundreds of homes, displaced families and put their heritage in danger by clearing away dense urban structures.
“We are not trying to disrupt, disrupt or destroy any heritage sites,” he said. He theorized that the train lines were inadvertently rescuing the sites. “People don’t know they exist,” hassan said. “I think it’s a silver lining.”
The impact of the recent construction project is clear.
At the Mauj Darya shrine, a small domed structure covered with ornate mosaics and metal foil, engineers built a reinforced concrete wall beneath the structure. This is obvious, as construction workers have excavated a huge canal to the walls of the temple.
Saira Waqas, 30, grabbed her daughter, Saman, and climbed up to the saint in the mud. She said she was praying for a son.
The other trench is located in front of st. Andrews union Presbyterian church built in 1860 during the British colonial period. Inside, metal rods strengthen the facade of the church.
The guard, salim Masih, says the church serves the small Presbyterian community of hundreds of families. His daughter has just graduated from college and they are celebrating in church.
The train line runs on the ground near Shalimar garden, providing a view of the mughal era landscape. The couple sat in a secluded place under the shade of a tree. Family walks.
Church administrator Salim Masih placed a photograph near the altar of st. Andrew’s union Presbyterian church, which was built in 1860 during the British colonial period.
The biggest gripe of activists like Mr Mutaz is the method used to mine the train’s route. The government did not bury the tunnels under the ground, but through the dense urban structure of Lahore.
They accuse the government of using the faster, cheaper and more disruptive way to complete the train before the national election this summer. The big transport project is the signature of nawaz, the Pakistani Muslim league, which runs the federal government and the conservative party in punjab, whose capital is Lahore.
“This has become an electoral stunt,” said Nadeem Omar Tarar, an anthropologist and President of the national academy of arts in Lahore, who has written the new line. Transportation projects such as subway and road projects can be implemented in a short time and provide immediate visibility, he said.
Residents of the Mauj Darya shrine watch the construction work.
Transportation official hasan said the government has used ground mining because engineers recommend it. And Lahore’s underground utilities have never been properly marked – which means that if they get into the tunnel, they may be accidentally cut off.
“That’s why it’s going deep into the tunnel, well below all of these services,” said architect Mumtaz. “They don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re lying.”
Hasan said the matter had been decided in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. In December, it allowed construction near the site. It was stopped at a lower court, and it heard a petition for the train route.
As a result, construction around the site has only just begun in the last three months. Other work began in October 2015.
UNESCO official feng jing said the world heritage committee is organizing a visit to Shalimar gardens, “as soon as possible”.
In an email, UNESCO officials said they had asked for a July 2016 mission to check rail lines and review the management and protection of world heritage sites. “Unfortunately,” he wrote, the government did not invite them until late December 2017.
After the traditional sufi party ended at the Mauj Darya temple, the man leaned on the protective barriers around the building and completed the joint before leaving.
But many of the more than a dozen residents NPR interviewed welcomed the new train. On a main street, the nodules of motorbikes and vehicles turn around in the shadow of a construction project. Government health worker Shaker Javed was tied up with three other men in a dudu car.
The train line “will be more respectable,” Javed said. It would be faster, quieter, and he would shout at the roar of traffic.
Back at the shrine, the party is over and people are piling up. Barbar Ali, a 25-year-old mechanic, said he believed the government would repair any damage they had done to the temple. Even if they want to hurt it, he says, the saint Mauj Darya won’t let them get hurt.
He pointed out the building. This will be sorted out, “when all this is done,” he said, “people will really be in awe of Pakistan’s progress.”


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