• Thursday, June 27, 2019

Orange Line Metro Train project: A political gambit?

Discussion in 'Pakistan Economy' started by Devil Soul, Nov 15, 2015.

  1. Devil Soul

    Devil Soul ELITE MEMBER

    Jun 28, 2010
    +46 / 27,647 / -1
    A political gambit?
    Huddled inside a house in Parachute Colony are tetchy, anxious residents. There are nervous whispers among the youth and there is palpable concern in the elderly. The Orange Line Metro Train project is anathema, say the residents, and they have gathered on a one-point agenda: how can they save their colony from being appropriated by the government?

    Parachute Colony is a squatter settlement of over 100 houses in the Railway Colony vicinity. Residents have been holding these community meetings on a daily basis these days, after authorities formally demarcated the colony to be acquired for the Orange Line Metro Train project. The majority of residents present hold ownership rights of their property, but as per the project blueprints, Sultanpura Station is to be constructed near this site.

    “The government is exacting revenge for 2013. They want to punish us for the sin of voting Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in PP-147 during the 2013 polls,” alleges resident Mohammad Raees. He laughs off the sums being offered by the government to buy property from residents. “It will be very hard to buy a plot in this amount elsewhere in the city,” he asserts.

    Spread out on a table in the room is a rough map, indicating the community’s proposed route amendments which would allow both the elevated track to be built and for their colony to be saved.

    Damage to historical monuments is in plain sight but another kind of demolition is also underway in Lahore: communities settled since Partition have been marked for displacement. Is it all merely a pre-election move?
    “Have a look at the map that we have prepared, and tell us if you see any problems with [the government] slightly bending the elevated track? If they can make this little adjustment, the government can avoid the acquisition of our land,” argues resident Ijaz Anwar.

    [​IMG]A view of ongoing construction work of Orange Metro Train Project during development work in Provincial Capital. — APP

    Those around him nod; many wonder aloud how the route was planned and who decided on the required land acquisition. The land holding range between 1.5 marlas and four marlas. Residents criticise the government for needlessly depriving them of their homes. “You cannot fathom our situation these days. Since the demarcation of our houses, 40 of the total 104, we aren’t sleeping well either,” says Anwar.

    “We want to ask the government why it is so attached to this land. Why doesn’t it want to change the route at this stretch despite there being no harm or obstruction?” deplores Raees.

    There is a historical context to the residents’ allegations of bias against them.

    Parachute Colony was among the 33 kutchi abadis constructed on railways land that were regularised by the Pervez Elahi-led Punjab government back in 2003. Residents claim that their settlement has existed since Partition; it was only after the turn of the century that some 6,000 tenant families in these 33 kutchi abadis were granted ownership rights.

    But the regularisation of kutchi abadis was also neatly knitted into the by-polls election campaign of the PML-Q’s candidate: Mohammed Aleem Khan, now a stalwart of the PTI. The seat had been vacated by PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who had chosen to retain his NA-122 National Assembly seat.

    On Jan 8, 2003 — a week before the scheduled by-polls for PP-147 — a large public gathering was organised by the PML-Q to announce the regularisation, with the chief minister invited to announce the measure himself and back his candidate. Although polls were delayed over allegations of rigging, Aleem Khan eventually won the provincial constituency on the back of granting ownership rights to dwellers of the 33 squatter settlements.

    Aleem Khan went on to serve as the provincial information technology minister in the PML-Q government, but in 2012, he left the Chaudhry brothers and joined the PTI.

    By this time, Ayaz Sadiq had won NA-122 in the 2008 elections and was serving as a member of the Railway Standing Committee. He then defeated Imran Khan in the 2013 polls on the same seat, and then trumped Aleem Khan in the recently-concluded by-poll.

    But once again, the bliss of railway workers was to define the course of elections.

    As part of Sadiq’s election campaign for the 2015 by-polls, Federal Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique addressed a public gathering at the Railways Locomotive Shed, and accused Aleem Khan of having issued fake allotment letters to those who lived in squatter settlements. While announcing new residential quarters for railway workers, he also pledged that residents of kutchi abadis would not be displaced from their homes.

    In the same breath, Rafique also re-asserted the PML-N government’s intention to build the Orange Line train project. Ten railway unions thanked Rafique for the gestures and endorsed Sadiq’s candidature; in total, they claimed to have the support of 10,000 residents (including workers and their families).

    In response, the Federation of Pakistan Kutchi Abadis, Punjab issued a press release to reiterate their support for Aleem Khan’s candidature. They rejected Rafique’s allegations about fake allotment letters, and claimed that Khan had helped residents of over 40 squatter settlements to claim ownership rights.

    Results of the by-polls reflected this division between various inhabitants of colonies constructed on railways land: Ayaz Sadiq retained his NA-122 seat while PTI’s Shoaib Siddiqui won the provincial seat, PP-147.

    Parachute Colony was among the 33 kutchi abadis constructed on railways land that were regularised by the Pervez Elahi-led Punjab government back in 2003... But the regularisation of kutchi abadis was also neatly knitted into the by-polls election campaign of the PML-Q’s candidate: Mohammed Aleem Khan, now a stalwart of the PTI. The seat had been vacated by PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who had chosen to retain his NA-122 National Assembly seat.
    With by-polls now over, and the PML-N accelerating efforts to build the Orange Line train project, focus has also returned to the need to hurry it all up. Central to the heated debate in Lahore is the question of why the government didn’t employ tunnel boring machines (TBMs). Is it simply because the TBM exercise will not allow the project to be completed ahead of the next general elections?

    “TBM technology, especially from Germany, is considered most safe and viable for infrastructure and water reservoir related projects,” explains a senior engineer, requesting anonymity.


    Citing the use of TBM technology in the on-going Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project by contractors of the Water and Power Development Authority, he says that although some risks are involved in using this technology, it could well be employed for the Orange Line Project.

    “TBMs are manufactured per specified sizes and diameter, and then deployed underground for boring. Though it is slower than the method being practiced in this project, I think it will take a maximum of three to four years in total for the entire tunnel (27.1km route) to be dug up, lined with concrete casing, and then to lay the tracks,” he argues.

    Indeed, taking the Orange Line track underground is among the central demands of shopkeepers around Shalamar Gardens, whose shops have been earmarked for demolition.

    “We had suggested to the government to pass the train underground in the stretch around Shalamar Gardens, but we are still awaiting their response,” says Aftab, whose shop is situated in a plaza at the Shalamar intersection.

    The traders’ association too had rejected the government’s plan of constructing an elevated track along Shalamar Gardens. “Though we are not against the project, we have decided to stage protest rallies till the acceptance of our demands. Banners inscribed with our demands have already been hanged as we will not let the government mess with our businesses,” he warns.

    But project executors disagree with demands of taking the Orange Line track underground, terming it unfeasible.

    “Although TBM technology can be used in Lahore, it is very difficult to deliver positive results in a specified timeframe, since Lahore’s underground system faces a persistent problem of seepage,” explains Israr Saeed, chief engineer of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), who is directly supervising the whole construction work these days.

    “It is not so easy or simple as it is being made out to be, as you have to first place an order for a TBM machine according to particular specifications, then wait for the TBM to be delivered, and then deploy it beneath the surface. These machines would only dig six to seven kilometres in a year,” he says.

    Veteran civil works specialist Sung Hoon Oh, country director in Pakistan of a South Korean construction company, also termed the TBM technology unfit for Lahore soil — particularly in context with the project in question.

    “If the executing agency — LDA or the Punjab government — decide to keep the entire metro train track underground, they can do so very easily through the open, cut and cover (OCC) method. If they can keep about 1.72km underground through this method, they can also construct the entire track this way,” says Hoon Oh, who has been working in Pakistan since 1993, and engaged or completed various infrastructure related projects, including the Lowari Tunnel Project in Chitral.

    Talking about construction of subways in South Korea and the method used there, Hoon Oh says that since the soil in Seoul and some other mega cities was rocky and sandy as well, TBM technology was also not feasible there.

    “Our government used the drill and blast technology when digging tunnels for subways and train tracks. Lahore’s soil too is not feasible for TBM, but the cut and cover method is possible here. It will not take more than three years to accomplish this project if OCC is employed,” argues Hoon Oh. For him, keeping the 27.1km project entirely underground through the OCC method was a better option than elevating a major portion of the track.

    For Saeed though, even the OCC method is not viable.

    “Passing the train underground along Chauburji by starting it after the Samanabad Morr through OCC is also infeasible, as it involves relocation of a major drain crossing the road. Similarly, it is not viable to keep the entire track underground through the OCC method, as it means massive digging across the city,” says the LDA chief engineer.

    “TBM technology is not a proven or tested method in Pakistan. You can recall an incident from the ongoing Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project, when workers died on the job and many sustained injuries. We are not in a position to take such risks,” Saeed argues.

    While conceding the fact that the project would hinder the view of Chauburji and adversely affect residents of Parachute Colony and Jain Mandir, the LDA chief engineer claims that a handsome compensation package has been arranged for the affected citizens.

    “They are offering us Rs1.2 million per marla for our houses,” deplores Muhammad Hanif, a resident of the Jain Mandir area.

    “All houses measure between two and three marlas. The property cost of a 100 square feet shop is about Rs10m, so how can we buy a house in Rs2 or 3m that the government will pay in compensation?” asks Muhammad Saqib, another resident of the area.

    Residents’ angst in the Jain Mandir area mirrors that of Parachute Colony, with residents continuing to demonstrate against the project for the last many days. Those living here claim that 400 homes will be demolished if the Orange Line project goes ahead as planned.

    “We have been wondering why the underground portion is hitting us, since this can be constructed with merely a route change through Old Anarkali Chowk,” says Hanif.

    On the other side of the city, the lament is the familiar.

    “After migration from India, these houses were the only gifts bestowed on us by the government. And now the incumbents are snatching it away from us,” says Raees. “How we can we leave the place where we have been living since 1947?”

    At a glance

    1. Length = 27.12km
      Cut and Cover Section = 1.72km
      Elevated = 25.4km

    2. Elevated Viaduct = U-shaped girders

    3. Stations = 26
      Elevated = 24
      Underground= 2

    4. Rolling stock = 27 Train sets

    5. Depot at Dera Gujran
      Operation Control Center
      Workshops with overhauling facility
      Training centre
      Parking facility

    6. Stabling Yard at Ali Town
      Washing facility
      Minor repair facility
      Parking facility
    Project cost

    1. CR-NORINCO, the lowest bidder, quoted a total project cost of $2.139 billion

    2. More than $600m were saved by the government as a result of negotiations ($2,139–$1,478= $661m)

    1. Approximately 245,000 passengers/day

    2. Train speed (Max) = 80km/h

    3. Train Speed (Commercial) = 34.8km/h

    4. End-to-end travel time = 45 minutes

    5. End-to-end present travel time = 2 to 2.5 hours

    6. Reduction in congestion on side roads
      Source: Punjab government presentation delivered to the prime minister on October 10, 2015

    "The government had shown a different plan during the public hearing before the start of the Orange Line project. We are not against development; it is good that the government is developing the transport system but it should also save heritage and historical monuments. The government is breaking its own laws.

    Imrana Tiwana
    Convener, Lahore Bachao Tehreek


    "Chauburji was part of the garden originally built by Zaibunnisa, the daughter of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. At the time of Partition, only some remnants of the garden were left. Any building older than 70 years becomes part of protected monuments according to laws of the country, but here, Pakistani laws as well as Unesco rules for world heritage sites are being violated.

    Salman Rashid
    Political ecologist

    As per the original Lahore Urban Transport Master Plan, developed during the Pervaiz Elahi government in 2006-7, the Orange Line had to run underground for 7km, covering old areas such as The Mall. But now, the underground portion has been reduced to about 1.7km while most of the train route is over-ground.

    The Orange Line train plan is very dangerous however you might want to assess it. They will dig 50 to 60-foot-deep pits, and then cover it — this will damage all nearby buildings.

    They don’t have a proper plan to keep rainwater away either; they’d have to constantly drain it out whenever Lahore receives heavy showers.

    Reza Ali
    Urban planner, researcher and architect


    If the government has to run the Orange Line train, it should use tunnel technology to dig and build. Metropolises that have underground tunnel networks for trains, such as London and New York, employed tunnel technology to build. Even Delhi also has a metro train but it does not affect the city’s old buildings and architecture. There isn’t much difference in the geology of Delhi and Lahore, and our government needs to learn from the metro train project carried out in Delhi.

    Dr Ajaz Anwar
    Founding member, Lahore Conservation Society

    Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, November 15th, 2015
  2. Muhammad Omar

    Muhammad Omar ELITE MEMBER

    Feb 3, 2014
    +14 / 19,331 / -1
    These which are protesting against Orange line like lahore Bachao Tahreek will never even Use this Public Transport....

    They made a curve which takes Orange lune track Away fro Shalamar Bagh The route is outside the Shalamar Garden not from inside.... Then they said about Chuburgi that Gov is Demolishing it but again which turned out to be rumor... it's going around Chuburji .... Then they rant about GPO which again was also cleared by Shahbaz Shareef

    “I am seeing a lot of rumors circulating about proposed demolishing of some historical places for Orange Line Metro Train… I would officially like to declare such rumors as baseless and part of propaganda … Before initiating this project; it was our principled decision not to harm any historical place including Chuburji, GPO & St. Andrews Church etc… I have personally presided over a number of meetings to ensure that all such landmarks are protected and preserved in their actual condition as they define the culture and heritage of Lahore … I have been informed that ‘Leader’ of a certain political party was also involved in spreading such rumors … I believe that national leaders must confirm facts before spreading a word because they influence and shape public opinion…. We all must act responsibly as honorable citizens of Pakistan.” - Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif.