Troubles importing red stone is one of the reasons behind the delay
LAHORE:Various reasons, including unavailability of building material and rising construction costs have plagued restoration and renovation works for 34 historical sites across the Punjab province. Out of these halted projects, 19 sites had been approved during previous years while 15 new schemes were recently added, but all of them have been left to wither with time.
Addressing the situation, the secretary for tourism said that a summary of major projects has been sent for re-approval.
According to the details, 19 ongoing and 15 new projects of Punjab Archeology were approved during the current financial year at an estimated total cost of Rs2821.858 million but not a single project has neared completion so far. Funds released for most projects have to be surrendered, while sources privy to the matter reveal that over 34 per cent of the funds have been utilised on the projects.
Documents obtained from Punjab Archeology reveal that the aforementioned 19 projects also include restoration and protection of Rohtas Fort, that is estimated to cost Rs218 million. Conservation and restoration of Nandanafort is also underway with a budget of Rs126 million. However, work on the five-year project for rehabilitation and protection of Shalamar Bagh has come to a halt due to unavailability of a rare variety of red stone used in the construction. The project is expected to cost over Rs290 million.
Similarly, work on mausoleum of Jahangir, the tomb of Noor Jahan and the mausoleum of Asif Jahan has also been suspended due to unavailability of the red stone.
According to Punjab archeological officials, the Ministry of Commerce had issued permission to import the required red stone from India. However, owing to significant fluctuations in the dollar rate, the red stone importing contractors have refused to do business on previously furnished rates. “The dollar rate was less than Rs150 at the time of the tender for the import of red stone. Since then, the border has been closed due to Corona and now the dollar rate has risen sharply and no contractor is ready to import stones from India,” the contractor told.
On the other had, work is currently underway to restore and protect part of the Dravar fort in South Punjab, while grass lawns are being prepared in Jahangir and Shalamar Bagh mausoleums by PHA.
Overall, 49 per cent of the funds, i.e. Rs259.927 million have been spent so far, while the remaining funds have been surrendered.
As for the 15 projects actualised by Punjab Archeology this year, Rs75 million had been allocated for 12 different schemes in Taxila. For this, tenders have been issued but work is yet to start.
Similarly, construction work is underway at Mughal Garden Wah Cantt, Mulut Temple Chakwal, Sher Shah Bowli Mianwali, Sheikh Ali Bin Hassan’s Tomb Mandi Bahauddin and deer enclosures in Hiran Minar.
However, further restoration and renovation of Ali Mardan’s mausoleum in Lahore has been stopped due exhausted funds.
In addition to that, designs have been issued for a museum in Harappa, that will cost Rs81.88 million to complete, while work to restore the Multan Museum is also underway.
Addressing the arrested developments, sources privy to these projects while offering a reason for the delays said that the Ministry of Archeology and Tourism was with the Chief Minister himself and he had appointed his advisors for these areas. “Advisers and secretaries have also been changing in the last three years,” the source added.
Tourism and Archeology Secretary Assadullah, while speaking on the matter corroborated that there were two reasons for the delay in the completion of archeological projects: unavailability of red stone and the contractors’ updated prices. He said that the dollar rate was much lower than it is today when the work order was issued. “Now we have prepared a summary and sent it for approval; if it is approved then work on the major projects will start soon. There is no issue of funds, the restoration work of ancient sites is very difficult and lengthy, which gives the impression that work may have stopped here or there may have been a slowdown,” he told The Express Tribune.