Dilemma over how to deal with centuries old buildings

PakThe local administration faces a practical dilemma over how to deal with a grave problem posed by a cluster of centuries old dilapidated buildings where thousands continue to live at great risk in the heart of the city.

The ‘Purana Shehr’ (old city) is made up of tly interlinked habitations with multi-floor buildings, a majority of which were built by Hindu and Sikh communities. After partition of the subcontinent in 1947, these buildings were occupied by new owners and gradually their condition deteriorated over last 60 years due to lack of maintenance.

Around 350 such buildings are located in Mohallah Waris Khan, Chahchi Mohallah, Saidpuri Gate, Alam Khan Road, Nishtarabad, Bhabra Bazaar, Lunda Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar, Chittian Hattian, Niya Mohallah, Bohar Bazaar, Mochi Bazaar, Purana Qila, Bansawala Chowk, Gawalmandi, Ganjmandi, Qasai Gali, Sabzi Mandi, Narankari Bazaar, Imambarah Road, Sunyara Gali and Shah Chan Chiragh.

Many in the old city proudly call their habitats historical heritage and insisted it should be preserved as such by concerned authorities. Others advocate a ‘surgical operation’ — demolish and construct new buildings.

t of these overlived buildings are also being used as guesthouses, hotels and godowns and other commercial activities as they are close to bazaars.

Various home industries are being run in some buildings providing females an opportunity to earn an honorable livelihood for their families. But illegal manufacturing of fireworks and unhygienic juices is also going on in a number of buildings.

The Rawal Town administration has so far issued notices to owners of 200 buildings to vacate these dilapidated structures. But owners have paid no heed to these notices as they are of the view that the local administration has not offered them any alternative plan. Some of them totally reject the impression that these buildings are dangerous to live in.

“Some elements have been levelling baseless propaganda with regard to structural condition of these buildings for their vested interests. Modern buildings like Margalla Towers collapsed in devastated 2005 earthquake but all buildings in the old city even did not develop cracks,” said Mushtaq Malik, a resident of Shah Chan Chiragh.

Samina Naz, a housewife living in Purana Qila, said some quarters wanted to render us homeless to achieve their commercial purposes. “Notices are served on the owners of the buildings without offering them any alternative plan, so there is no legal ground to vacate these buildings.”

When contacted, Rawal Town administration spokesman Tahir Khan said that concerned officials have been evaluating various options but they have not yet taken any decision whether these buildings should be repaired or demolished.

“We have served notices to owners of dilapidated buildings because we think it necessary to inform them about the gravity of the problem, but no one is going to render them homeless,” he said.

Shagufta Yasmin, a student of the National College of Arts (NCA), emphasising on the need for preserving these old buildings, said that any decision must focus on repair and maintenance of these buildings because their demolition would deprive us of our cultural heritage.

“Construction and layout of these buildings provide us traces of art and culture which must be preserved. It will not be advisable to remove such buildings to pave way for construction of commercial plazas,” she said.

Rawal Town Nazim Sheikh Rashid Shafique told ‘The News’ that notices have been served on owners of dilapidated buildings in the old city because there was a grave danger of their collapse. “Owners of these buildings have conveyed to us that they have no resources to carry out maintenance work so the administration should either extend required funds for this purpose or provide alternative shelters to them.”

He said the administration was financially not able to provide funds or alternative shelters so “we have informed the Punjab government about the situation and asked for funds but it has not yet responded to our request.”

The town nazim said the issue of these buildings has been lingering on for last 25 years and it could not be resolved without support of the provincial government.

“We are fully aware of the financial position of owners so we cannot take any step to forcibly vacate these buildings. Whenever the provincial government provides any assistance, the local administration will make all-out efforts to address this issue,” he said.


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