LAHORE: French development agency Agence Française De Développement (AFD) is lending a soft loan of $28.93 million to the government of Punjab and Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) to make Lahore Fort and its surrounding buffer zone a high tourist spot and destination of choice, Daily Times learnt on Friday.A copy of proposal received by Daily Times stated that the objectives of the loan agreement were to assist in the conservation of the Lahore Fort resulting in increased tourism by professionally showcasing the Fort’s rich history in a manner that strengthens national identity and international ownership of the monuments. Also, the proposed project for which AFD is providing the loan would address the factors behind decay and degradation of Lahore Fort, conserve prioritised set of historic structures, their fabric and decorations and rehabilitate the larger monument complex and to provide public facilities. Also the project would add in the local economic development including tourism by job creation and skills development of the economic ecosystem of the Walled City.WCLA Conservation & Urban Planning Director Najam Saqib said that this project would improve the ongoing conservation works inside Lahore Fort by including the buffer zone. This buffer zone would provide a boundary between the Fort and rest of the Walled City and this will make it easy for the tourists to visit the world heritage sites. He said such a proposal has been adopted after reviewing the international models of heritage sites. He added that the AFD funding for the Shah Burj complex will be used for developing a museum at Summer Palace, after its conservation. He said that Khilwat Khana, Shahjahan’s and Jahangir’s quadrangles, Akbari Gate and the area around it, the southern wall and steps and the central zone encompassing Makatib Khana, Moti Masjid, Diwan-e-Aam would also be conserved in this project.“AFD funding will include in particular two main infrastructure components which are the improvement of waste water and storm water drainage and the external rehabilitation of a 132 KVA power grid station and taking the 132 KVA power lines underground, which presently run on high pylons along the road next to the Fort. The works will be carried out by WCLA in close association with Lahore Electric Supply Company following internationally accepted standards and best practices. Development of the Eastern Buffer Zone which includes activities subsequent to the removal of the Rim Market like the development and construction of boutique hotel, mini bazaar and parking facilities will also be done. Creation of Southern Zone and South Western Buffer Zone for access to Fort and public area improvement including Ali Park, Southern Wall & colonial steps of the Fort, will also be a part of the project. AFD funding will serve to co-finance for façade improvement of houses on southern side of buffer zone, rehabilitation and improvement of the urban block known as the Triangle, rehabilitation of the urban fabric of Neeva Chaith Ram, rehabilitation of the urban fabric of Uncha Chaith Ram and rehabilitation of Shiekhupurian Bazaar. Haveli Bej Nath, Dina Nath and another near Rim Market will also be rehabilitated in this project,” Najam Saqib added. He further said that the Walled City of Lahore was composed of the Lahore Fort and other major historic sites around it aging to pre-Muslim, Mughal, Sikh and British colonial periods. The Lahore Fort and its neighbouring elements were to be regarded as part of a distinct area of high value and as per WCLA ACT 2012 the area commanded by these elements has been identified in the Master Conservation and Re-Development Plan as a zone of high value, and assigned the name Zone of Special Value 1.“The proposal for AFD has been accepted by the Planning and Development Department Punjab and they have directed WCLA to start the preparation of PC-1 for this.” Saqib said. He added that Aga Khan Trust for Culture had been a great support to WCLA for all the projects and they would be working together on this scheme as well.WCLA Director General Kamran Lashari said, “The heritage of Walled City of Lahore is a key asset for the country and greatest source of building a positive image of Pakistan and we are trying our best to preserve the heritage. The Fort needs to be reconnected with rest of the Walled City through its historic Akbari Gate, leading to the monuments and neighbourhoods conserved and rehabilitated recently by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and WCLA in the vicinity of Wazir Khan Mosque near Delhi Gate.”Published in Daily Times, May 26th 2018.