Over 50 heritage sites decaying in south Punjab

A senior archaeology officer on condition of anonymity said not a single penny as funds for the protection of the heritage monuments were released since 1995. Earlier, such funds were released in 1988 and then in 1992.

The Punjab government clearly informed the department concerned there was already a shortage of funds for the current uplift and for people who are alive while the departments was seeking money for heritage sites, he added.

The Punjab Ombudsman documents confirm that more alarming and critical is the lack of awareness and the necessary will to preserve the already built heritage while a vast number of culturally valuable buildings are not even listed as protected heritage.

The source also said currently 25 bodies have been working in Punjab and Rs 3.5 million had been disbursed among those organisations but these failed even to list dilapidated historical sites in the South Punjab.

On the other hand, not a single penny could be allocated since 1998 for Punjab Heritage Conservation in the Annual Development programme and the government ordered the subordinate offices to utilise funds from their respective Auqaf departments, revealed Archaeology department insiders.

The Punjab Ombudsman in his critical paper on conservation and preservation of built heritage has mentioned that valuables cultural property is facing not only neglect but also heedless destruction in cities, towns and villages as these grow and transform without adequate measures to preserve the built heritage.

It further underlined that at present the conservation of built heritage remains the responsibility of the Department of Archaeology, which has a number of monuments and sites on its list of protected sites. But this department is not structured to conserve buildings as a living cultural entity of a locale.

 Careful excavation preservation and display of these artefacts can go a long way in helping boost Pakistan’s image as an archaeological and historical tourist attraction, archaeologists observed.

The chief minister sanctioned Rs 40 million in a meeting held on November 4, 2004 for the rehabilitation schemes of the Lahore Fort and Shalimar Garden but the South Punjab heritage sites are still waiting for renovation, a retired archaeologist disclosed.

The crumbling heritage sites situated in South Punjab districts include 19 at Multan, six at Lodhran, one each at Sahiwal, Sargodha, Layyah and Vehari, two at Dera Ghazi Khan, four at Muzaffargarh, six at Rajanpur, eight at Bahawalpur and four at Rahimyar Khan.

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