LAHORE, Pakistan, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A Pakistani court has ordered construction of the country’s first metro train line to stop after campaigners in the city of Lahore argued that the project endangered historical buildings.
Lahore High Court issued a stay order late on Thursday suspending all work within 200 feet (61 metres) of 11 buildings of historical value, said Azhar Siddique, a lawyer and petitioner in the case.
Buildings deemed at risk include the Mughal Fort and Shalamar Gardens complex - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a nineteenth century British-built church and the Victorian-era General Post Office.
“I, on behalf of civil society, filed the petition to save 26 heritage sites from construction of the Orange Line Train Project,” Siddique told Reuters on Friday.
The United Nations last week called on Pakistan’s government to halt work on the line. It said construction, which started last year, had led to forced evictions and threatened a large number of Lahore’s protected heritage sites, historic buildings and minority places of worship.
Independent experts were puzzled as to why alternative, less damaging routes were not considered, the U.N. said.
Part-funded by China, the Lahore Metro is a rapid mass transit system that the government hopes will ease travel in the fast-growing city, Pakistan’s second largest.
Public transport remains woefully inadequate across most Pakistani cities and a rapidly urbanising population has left roads choked with traffic, slowing travel times. (Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Nick Macfie)