RESPONSES TO LAST
The great wall of Lahore
Restoring the walled city to its original shape is a Herculean task all governments attempted but none succeeded
The walled city of Lahore, also known as the 'andaroon shehr' is an age-old settlement having cultural influences of three major empires; the Mughal, the British and post-partition Pakistan. Historical records show that the old city of Lahore was fortified by a city wall during the Mughal era. Much of the wall remains intact today and the 13 magnificent gates leading to the Old City dwellings are a popular attraction for tourists.
Over the years, encroachments along the wall, the circular garden around it and the ever-increasing commercial activity in the area have marred the original beauty of this historic structure. These problems are not limited to the exterior wall but are felt on the other side of the wall as well.
Of late, the government and several international donors have been stressing the need to restore this area to its original shape. A couple of projects have already been announced and work on more than one is already underway. One such project is about the restoration of the Circular Park by removing all encroachments in it. The Aga Khan Foundation has made a financial commitment for this project.
The restoration of the historic trail (Shahi Guzargah) and the Lahore Urban Development and Traffic Study project financed by the World Bank are two other examples. The former divides the trail into five sections namely Delhi Gate, Masjid Wazir Khan, Baoli Bagh, Akbari Gate and the triangle. Several other historical monuments like the Shahi Hamam (Royal Bath), the Sonehri Masjid and the Maryam Zamani mosque also lie along the trail. The World Bank has provided $10 million for this project and the Punjab government has announced to arrange similar amount for the project from its own sources.
Though the idea looks good on paper, the developers, planners and architects involved in these projects agree that executing this plan is as tough as one can think of. In a research paper tiled 'The Walled City of Lahore: Directions for Rehabilitation,' renowned architect Kamil Khan Mumtaz has raised a couple of pertinent questions. He asks: "Should we conserve the city's past or its present form? If we opt for its past form, which era should we choose? Regardless of which one is chosen, how can we conserve its past form without turning it into a museum and disturbing its urban life?"
He also traces the history of the area in words that follow: "The walled city is in the northeastern quarter of Lahore, along the ancient route from Kabul to Delhi on the left bank of River Ravi. The area encompasses roughly one square mile. Settlement dates back some 1,600 years. Roughly oval in shape, the walled city was until 1859 enclosed by a moat and double walls, inside which were two mounds, a citadel and the city."
Unlike in the past, the Punjab government now seems to be aware of the problems that can come their way during the execution of these projects. The establishment of a body -- Sustainable Development of Walled City Lahore (SDWCL), shows that this time it means business, at least in words of Planning and Development Department officials.
SDWCL director general, Muhammad Humayun Farshori says the government has taken up the Restoration of the Royal Trail pilot project as a challenge and already initiated a survey of the areas likely to be affected by it. The Royal Trail starts from Delhi Gate, through Masti Gate to the Lahore Fort. This survey would be completed by July 2007 and the initial work of the pilot project would start by October 2007, Farshori says.
Contrary to the official claims, removing encroachments from these areas is nothing less than a Herculean task. The presence of 150 kiosks owned by the Auqaf Department inside the walled city and the failure of the district government to remove them are facts that tell a totally different tale. The local government officials say that the Auqaf Department is not cooperating with it to remove these encroachments around Masjid Wazir Khan and the Shahi Hamam.
The recent announcements to launch walled city rehabilitation drives are not something new for the people of Lahore. Different governments in different times have pursued such agendas but failed miserably. Even former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif failed to remove encroachments along the outer wall of Old Lahore despite repeated efforts. He could raze dozens of petrol pumps owned by influentials but was helpless when it came to confronting wholesale traders in and outside the walled city.
It is amazing to note that the problems identified by the government are somewhat similar to those pointed out years after the partition. In his research 'Tale of Two Cities: The Aftermath of Partition for Lahore and Amritsar 1947-1957,' Prof Ian Talbot, University of Southampton writes, "Even at that time the residents of the old city were subject to inconvenience caused by mushrooming markets including Akbar Mandi, Maeva Mandi and Ghalla Mandi. The area became congested with a population density that was considerably higher than in Gulberg and Samanabad."
He goes on to say that it was the Lahore Improvement Trust that had taken the responsibility for the city's post-partition reconstruction. He says the construction of Lahore Grain Market near Badami Bagh in 1952 was designed to relieve congestion in the Akbar Mandi area. "At the same time land was acquired around the Wazir Khan Mosque in the walled city where the Azam Cloth market was to be later founded. This area was leased by the Improvement trust to the Cloth Market Association of Lahore," he adds.
Since then, there seems to be no improvement in the situation, mainly for the reason that the successive governments have lacked the resolve shown by the Lahore Improvement Trust or political will for whatever reason. Even if someone has dared to act in the past, the influential traders, building mafias, and other pressure groups in the area have resisted and foiled such plans. In this backdrop, it will be imperative for the government to chalk out plans about how to tackle these groups instead of carrying out multi-million dollar studies into the proposed projects.
By Adiah Khan
Summer is back in Lahore and the whining has already started. While some complain about the traffic torture, others discuss the dangers of global warming, some demand CNG rickshaws and others want their trees back. For me, however, a pot of black ink would do. And if I could also have a little knot of those girls in black from Islamabad, my quest is served. Yes! I am serious. I just love the feminist twist to the story of Talibanisation in Pakistan. My problem is such that only this breed of enthusiasts can solve it.
So I want a pot of black ink and some woman power along to go on a drive on the canal road. It is summer time again and the muddy waters are replete with the male form in all its glory. In simple words; decades ago somebody forgot to give the splashers of these waters a decent dress code resulting in years of indecent exposure that women of Lahore have had to forcefully witness since ages. Now only if these Islamabad girls came with me I could show them how bad it is. Many women I know actually got their first lessons in male anatomy while taking a drive along the canal. They have had a series of embarrassing situations to recount one of which is having no where to look while driving with one's father and involuntarily witnessing a group of hooligans having a good time, water dripping from their bodies. I don't know if any one has ever mentioned this in the media but since media is going places these days and the time is ripe to raise all sorts of hue and cry why not take advantage and raise one female cry against open obscenity in the city.
The surprising part is that the pot of black ink that I wanted to use was not very long ago utilised in the same city to blacken the faces of women on billboards. It did not bring any desirable result so I recommend that this pot of ink is handed over to the women now. I am a staunch follower of the functionalist theories that can be found in any sociology textbook. These functionalists believe that every thing that exists in a society has to have a function otherwise it has no point. If a mindset exists that is convinced with the black ink therapy to cure the ills of this word then let it be put to use. The point, however remains to first pick the real ills and only then to black ink them. And then it would be good publicity for the fundamentalist to reinvent her self and go after the men instead of the women.
I recently discovered the joys of the adage 'research before you leap', and got my questionnaire ready to research the issue. The first question on my note pad was -- what should a woman do if she is stuck in the traffic jam on the canal road (despite there being a number of under passes) and she sees in front of her those men swimmers whose last care in the world is being modest? The question, as you can see, is open ended. The answer could be a variety of responses. My respondents, as it turned out, had only one thing to say. Be it a mother, a husband, a student, a servant, a kid or even a half-wit best friend, they all had a question in response to mine, in varying tones and levels of compassion. They all asked why don't the women take an alternate route, skip the under passes and take the roads with red and green lights instead? I hope you see the moral of the story as I see it. Actually women have been empowered here, but only to the extent of avoiding on their own, what they previously avoided was told by their men.
The second question on my note pad asked people what they thought of the black ink pot. Most of the people thought it was a cool idea, but some had even cooler ones for me. For example there was a suggestion by a man for women, to forget about the black ink and just lower their eyes instead. After all, you only react to what you look at. If you throw black ink on somebody, then you cannot possibly do it without looking. "You don't want to see these men, right?" said my respondent. "Right," I said. "Then don't see them. It's as simple as that." Not bad I must say. These clever, clever men! They come up with such fine solutions. Why don't they have the same solutions when the ink pot is in their own hands?
• Exhibition of Abid Khan and Aqib Sharif at Nairang Gallery till April 20 from 11am to 11pm daily.
• 3rd Annual Exhibition by Young Artists at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall till April 17 from 9am to 6pm daily.
• Sixth Youth Performing Arts Festival from Friday, April 13 to 20 at Alhamra, Gaddafi Stadium, featuring universities, colleges and independent youth performing groups from Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Islamabad and Multan.
• Students' Contest at the All Pakistan Music Conference (APMC) on Wednesday, April 11 at Bagh-e-Jinnah Open Air Theatre at 8pm.
• Music Night at the APMC on Thursday, April 12, at Bagh-e-Jinnah Open Air Theatre at 8pm. Folk music, geet, ghazal, kafi, kajri, dadra, thumri at the APMC.
• Vocal night at the APMC on Friday, April 13 at Bagh-e-Jinnah Open Air Theatre at 8pm. Khyal, Tirvat, Tarana, Thumri, Dadra, Kajri, Kafi
• The all night programme of folk music, geet, ghazal, kafi, kajri, dadra, thumri, tarana, tirvat, khyal on Saturday, 14 April 2007.
• Nazir Ahmad Music Society stages a concert every Saturday at 1:30pm at Government College University Lahore (GCU).
Commercial activities in the walled city have acquired dangerous proportions seriously affecting the environment
By Aoun Sahi
With the passge of time most parts of the circular garden and other open spaces in the walled city vanished with encroachments. Many of the residences were converted into plazas and workshops, making it one of the most prominent business places in Pakistan and at the same time the most ill-planned as well. This has resulted in lots of social, cultural and environmental problems, both for the walled city dwellers and government agencies.
According to Amjad Hussain, a 35 year old resident of the walled city, most of the buildings here do not have any arrangement for proper ventilation and many parts of these buildings have never been exposed to sunlight. Many streets of the walled city have not received sunlight for many years due to illegal and unplanned tall buildings.
Some of the major wholesale markets are located within it like that of chemicals, leather, plastic, cloth, glass, jewellery, grains and spices. Along with this a host of tiny workshops and industries which make electricity instruments, jewellery, shampoo, creams, plastic toys and bags etc, are scattered all over the walled city. The boom in commercial activities and population explosion have badly affected its environment, centuries old buildings and culture. The most recent and the most dangerous phenomenon is that many people in the walled city have started digging the floor of centuries old buildings to add a basement to increase the capacity of their buildings. Some buildings in the walled city have collapsed because of this practice, resulting in loss of human lives.
According to Amjad, commercial activities have badly affected the overall environment of the walled city. It stinks of chemicals whose odour cannot escape this closed space. The chemical market is one thing. There are many commercial activities like different low standard products such as shampoos, soaps, creams, perfumes etc are made here by untrained people.
What is made and sold here is one problem. In addition to that there is another big problem of the extraordinary traffic load in the area which has increased manifold, resulting in unbearable noise, dust and smoke. While the day may be noisy in most parts of the city, nights are peaceful for those who do not live in the old city. Traffic is particularly heavy at night. "It's time to load and unload the goods which make horrible vibrations," Amjad tells TNS.
Many old residents of the area have moved to other parts of the city. Still it is the most densely populated area of the city. According to a research paper 'Redeveloping and Rehabilitating Traditional Areas' the population in walled city is already very dense, an average of about 1100 persons per hectare, compared to about 160 persons per hectare in the rest of the metropolitan area. The building stock in the walled city has not increased in over a hundred years. Plot sizes are extremely small with average size of 40 square meters. The average household size is nearly seven persons and one third of the population lives in single room units.
The physical conditions in the walled city itself are in a serious state of decay. Electrical wiring is old and dangerous. Water supply and street drainage lie at the root of most of the environmental and structural problems of the walled city. The water distribution network is very old and the pipes that are carrying water are all arranged through private connections. The result is lack of pressure. The existing sewerage consists of a system of open drains into which all the refuse are discharged. Heaps of garbage can be seen in every street and road of the walled city, creating both traffic and environmental problems.
Tariq Zaman Khan, District officer environment, city district government Lahore, admits that excessive commercial activities and markets are creating lot of environmental problems in the walled city which are damaging surrounding historical monuments. He tells TNS that according to a survey of city government's environment department smoke omitted from different factories and vehicles and immense human activities are not only adversely affecting health of people living in the walled city but the historical monuments as well. He tells TNS that vibration caused by heavy traffic is also very damaging for historical monuments. The department is trying to maintain a buffer zone to save these monuments from pollution but the most appropriate solution would be to shift the markets within this part of the city to some other place, the environment officer says.
The Lahore Development Authority's conservation plan for the walled city is a series of recommendations concerning the physical decay of its historic structures
By Ali Sultan
The earliest records show that the walled city of Lahore existed as early as 1050 A.D. By the 1950s an organisation called the Lahore Improvement Trust attempted to carry out a plan for commercial development but did not in earnest start till the early 1970s and 80s, when 29 percent of the old city's population moved out.
The space left by emigrants from the old city then got filled by commercial interests, mostly small scale manufacturers and wholesalers. The advantages for commercial interests were the readily available cheap labour, as well as relative anonymity, which facilitated the evasion of most national and local taxation. This led to more commercial development mainly because of the absence of enforcement of building regulations and cheap plots.
This resulted in the abuse of buildings through inappropriate re-use of structures intended for small scale (cottage) industry and residential use. Low quality structures soon replaced older buildings.
The Lahore Development Authority's conservation plan for the walled city of Lahore is a series of recommendations concerning the physical decay of historic structures in the city, the 'visual decay' of newer structures and infrastructure, and the encroachment of various unregulated elements on the city's fabric. This programme of conservation, headed by Pakistan Environmental Planning and Architectural Consultants Ltd. (PEPAC) is actually the expansion of a project that began in 1979, the Lahore Urban Development and Traffic Study (LUDTS). This study, undertaken by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and funded by the World Bank, identified four areas of improvement.
1. Urban planning activities, leading to the production of a structure plan to provide a framework for action programme within Lahore; 2. Neighbourhood upgrading and urban expansion projects, to provide substantial improvements in living conditions for lower income groups; 3. Improvement of traffic conditions in congested parts of the street system of central Lahore; 4. Improved living conditions within the walled city by improving environmental sanitation and providing social support program.
Part of LUDTS' findings identify the precarious position of the physical fabric of the city. The report suggests (among other things) that any development and upgrading programme that the city initiated should include measures "to protect national and regional cultural heritage," and to that end it recommended the development of a conservation plan. The World Bank made the creation of a plan a condition for the first loans to be issued to Lahore.
The study identifies some 1,400 buildings within the city as having high architectural or historical value and presents a series of conservation proposals. These recommendations include both conservation steps for the buildings themselves, as well as social and economic programmes to halt the causes of their degradation.
RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S
Top ten fortune tellers in Lahore
1. Future Horizon
2. Komal Tariq
4. Aliya Nazir
5. A. S Chaudhry (alias Mamoon)
6. Mariam Aftab
7. M. A Kokab
8. Moazzam palmist
9. Humayon Gauhar
10. Tabi (numerologist)
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'Top ten old bookshops in Lahore'.
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