Concerned that construction on a new metro line in Lahore, Pakistan, has led to numerous forced evictions and damage to historic and cultural heritage sites, United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government to stop the work and provide more details on the project.
“The Pakistani authorities must take all necessary steps to secure the right to an adequate standard of living including housing and cultural rights as defined in international human rights laws and standards recognized by the country, Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, said jointly.
The experts also urged that authorities to halt all ongoing demolition and construction works that do not meet these standards.
Ms. Farha also expressed concern over short notice on forced vacation and lacking of resettlement and compensation plans for local residents.
“This project is creating homelessness amongst an already vulnerable population,” she warned, as many of the residents simply do not have the means to find alternative housing.
Moreover, the new metro line will pass through many registered protected heritage sites such as Lahore’s historic centre, minority worship places, historic tombs, shrines and gardens, which are not only of local importance but also of national significance for Pakistani history and cultural heritage.
“The project will not only destroy physical sites but the ways of life that have developed there, that people cherish and through which they express their dignity and identity,” Ms. Bennoune stressed.
The UN rights experts further raised attention to the missing information on the project the route of the Orange, as well as why there are no alternative options of the route to minimize the damage and displacement to protect heritage, community and environment.
“The details about the tendering projects, financing and costs, structural details, design, route and environmental impact have not been shared with the citizens, who have been protesting against the project since the beginning of construction work,” said the Special Rapporteurs.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.