The 12-kanal parking and the public utility area of Shalamar Bagh — or Shalimar Gardens — will soon be opened for picnickers. The Rs30 million parking-cum-public-utility area has been designed by Chief Architect Wing of Works and Buildings Department in accordance with the standards set by Unesco for the preservation and restoration of world heritage.
There will be three separate stands of motorcycles, cars and buses. Additionally, the parking shall have two gazebos, two curio shops, two ticket shops, a book shop, a tuck shop, a digital photography lab and washrooms.
According to Anjum Saleem Qureshi, Deputy Director, Punjab Archaeology Department’s Architecture Section, the construction of the parking and public utility area began in 2011 at the Mela Ground in front of the second gate of the Shalamar Bagh.
“Being located right in front of the Shalamar Bagh, the Mela Ground revenue land was transferred to the Punjab Archaeology Department which, out of a growing need for a parking of Unesco World Heritage standard, launched the project,” he says.
“After much delay, caused by a lack of funds, the project is now nearing completion.”
Afzal Khan, Deputy Director, Punjab Archaeology Department’s Engineering Section, explains that the Unesco World Heritage Committee “wanted no construction such as canteens, washrooms and restaurants in a monument that could damage it.”
Commenting on the need for the new parking and utility area, he says, “The world over, a public utility area includes a parking lot, shops and stalls for the tourists that fall outside of the main building of the monument. But the present parking of the Shalamar Bagh is spoiling the outer view of the gardens and the vehicles are parked right against the garden walls. This can cause the walls’ surface to scratch.
“Besides, the [present] parking lies on the edge of the road which causes traffic congestion, particularly when the foreign dignitaries are visiting the gardens and there are VIP vehicles all around the place.”
The Shalamar Bagh is on the Unesco World Heritage List which dictates that there be no construction of any kind within the monument building. But there are washrooms in the gardens which cause seeping of water into the foundations of the main building. The Punjab Archaeology Department plans to remove the washrooms and build new toilets in the new parking venue, away from the garden, at the outset of its second gate.
The purpose of removing the parking from the main gate of the Shalamar Bagh is to restore the grace of the ancient gate which was covered with the parking lot.
Afzal Khan claims that due to the efforts of the Punjab Archaeology Department, the World Heritage Centre of Paris removed the Shalamar Bagh and the Lahore Fort from the World Heritage Endangered List in 2013. (The abovementioned monuments were declared endangered in 1999.)
He also says that with the opening of the public utility area, which is right in front of the second gate of the Shalamar Bagh, the old gate will be closed.