Unstable situation : When it all comes crashing down

LAHORE: The Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) has spent millions of rupees on the makeup and restoration of facades of historic buildings in the Old City, but neither it nor the district or provincial government have been able to chalk out a sustainable plan to address the chronic issue of dangerous buildings.

A number of local residents, standing near the debris of a collapsed building – which claimed six lives, including three children and a woman inside Delhi Gate on Saturday – highlighted there were hundreds of such dangerous structures in the Walled City. These require immediate repair or evacuation. Several government agencies, including WCLA, have conducted various surveys in the area to identify dilapidated buildings, but they have failed to solve the problem.

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A citizen from local a neighbourhood near Wazir Khan Mosque, Awais Butt, said the authority had spent huge amounts of money to restore the Royal Trail, Shahi Hamam and Wazir Khan Mosque. It also spent a good amount of money on restoring facades of residential and commercial buildings along the Royal Trail. “A lot of attention is paid to fine details of historic architecture to restore the magnificent look of a royal era and this is commendable. However, it is unfortunate that people sitting at the helm of affairs prefer ruins over living citizens,” he lamented.

Another citizen, Kaleem Abbas, said most families living in these crumbling houses belonged to the lower income segment of society. “It is really difficult for them to make both ends meet. In addition, most of these properties are under joint ownership of multiple families which further exasperates the problem. If these families had resources or could afford repair a house, they would not be dying under debris,” he underlined.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Chief Minister’s Advisor Khawaja Ahmad Hassaan said though the WCLA had done some good work in the old city, a lot more was needed. He pointed out that the commercial value of property in the Walled City was one of the biggest problems for the government and posed a challenge with regards to regulating the area.

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“The price of a small one marla shop in Shahalam and other wholesale markets in the Walled City is much higher than a sizable shop in any commercial area of the city. The greed to earn more prompts building owners to construct illegal basements and structures in existing buildings and risk not only their lives, but those of common citizens.”

As far as Saturday’s accident was concerned, trade community leader Khalid Pervaiz said he fixed all responsibility on the WCLA management, district and provincial governments. Every year, he added, different government agencies conducted surveys to identify dangerous buildings but never took measures solve the issue. “The WCLA believes it has fulfilled its duty by circulating notices to owners of these dilapidated buildings. It has the funds to restore remains, but not to save living citizens,” he underlined.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2018.

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    Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/1602586/1-unstable-situation-comes-crashing/