Lahore’s metro line opens for a buzz – but what’s the real value of China’s ‘gift’? | Global development

IIn addition, people around the world have avoided public transport systems wherever possible. But last week, the Pakistani city of Lahore unveiled its چین 1.6 billion (23 1.23 billion) light rail transit system, China’s “gift.” Orange Line Metro Designed to carry about a quarter of a day in Pakistan’s second largest city.

To mark the first day of the operation, about 50,000 masked passengers, including Chehlum, air-conditioned trains, were decorated with Chinese and Pakistani flags. Among them was 45-year-old mother Tayyaba Arooj, who brought her nine relatives from Karachi on a visit to Karachi. “Praise be to AllaahThe train has just started. We want it to succeed and Pakistan to succeed, ”says Arooj in a packed car. “I’m a little worried because it’s crowded – but it’s Pakistan, so it’s always crowded.”

49% Badr Shehzad says, “The more people use this metro, the more it will benefit our country.” “Ninety-five percent of the people on board have nowhere to go – they’re just enjoying the trip,” he added, as the children snatched the phone.

At 27 kilometers, it is one of the largest metro projects under Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has reduced the two-and-a-half-hour grind in the sprawling city to less than an hour. It promises to reduce traffic, reduce pollution, and provide a cheaper way to get to one of South Asia’s busiest cities. With financial support from the Pakistani government and a قرض 1.6 billion loan from the Exim Bank of China, the train is jointly operated by China Railways and Norinco International, one of China’s largest engineering contractors. Guangzhou Metro Group and Daewoo Pakistan are also involved in the project.

Orange Line Metro
The Orange Line will cut Lahore by more than half the time to cross the bustle. Photo: Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images

The line is one of many rail and metro projects, with China providing global funding. Countries Such as Indonesia, Laos, Serbia, Malaysia and Russia.

“The first group to benefit from this train is women – they don’t usually have their own cars,” said Karan Dar, a Pakistani politician. research Shoes Pakistani women are generally more likely than men to use transportation, as they do not have access to other options such as motorcycles, Lahore’s most popular mode of transportation.

But the Orange Line has been plagued by allegations that it endangers UNESCO heritage sites until the government demolishes low-income homes along the way. Highlighting the country, more than 50 Orange Line workers have been killed Labor issuesIncluding uncertainties for its major infrastructure projects, patterns of reliance on subcontractors, as well as poor enforcement of relevant laws.

In January 2017, seven The workers died More than a dozen people were injured in the blaze at the Orange Line workers’ temporary shelter. From laborers to construction, a series of horrific events took place Power outage When a crane collided with men’s cables Crushed In their sleep through the falling wall. In July 2016, after the worker’s death, some Orange Line workers found the work very efficient and a StrikeIt is claimed that the government is giving priority to the pace of the project over the lives of the workers.

Workers say most of the incidents are due to the fact that the workers were not employed directly by the government or Chinese contractors, but by a criminal network of Pakistani subcontractors who paid low wages to workers from South Punjab. Protected from low health and safety.

Khalid Mahmood, director of the Lahore-based Labor Education Foundation, said there had been “gross violations of workers’ rights,” which had plagued workers since 2017. Fire And discovered that they had no agreement.

“Unions could not go inside the workplace. “No one was allowed to meet with the workers,” Mahmood told the Guardian. “The workers were hidden in camps. Their living conditions were very strange. Mahmood said Pakistani law offers protection and rights. “The workers were not informed. They say their efforts to find workers’ contracts at construction sites have been hampered by a lack of information from companies.” No one knew what was happening.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz opposition supporters
Opponents of the Orange Line are protesting at the railway’s official opening. Photograph: Arif Ali / AFP / Getty Images

Sohail Janjua, a spokesman for the Lahore Development Authority, the agency behind the Orange Line project, said: “As far as the law is concerned, enforcement of labor laws is the responsibility of the contractors.” Requests for comment from Chinese and Pakistani contractors Norenko and Habib Construction Services were not answered.

Along with the workers’ woes, the Orange Line has also been criticized for its price, with members of the ruling government calling it a white elephant that burdens the public coffers. Expected line Costs Taxpayer gets Rs 5bn (.8 23.8m) in subsidy every year.

Before he became the Prime Minister, Imran Khan Complex The previous government invested in the Orange Line instead of hospitals or ventilators, and Dante Dept. Decision not to protect the environment and key heritage sites during construction. In 2018, Khan focused on ridiculous financial details of projects such as the Orange Line as the focus of his anti-corruption campaign, launching a commission to investigate how contracts were awarded, including costs and transparency. Level.

Despite Khan’s criticism, Pakistan’s crumbling infrastructure and poor transport network in recent years have seen the country aggressively pursue more than 60 60 billion. Chinese loans Financing big-ticket development projects – which observers say will plunge a debt-ridden country into a financial quagmire. Pakistan’s external debt is now 45% of its GDP.

At the last stop at Lahore’s Dera Gujran terminal, passengers appear to be deprived of economic realities. For working-class Pakistanis, the metro is the beginning of a comfortable journey through the city’s dilapidated buildings and dilapidated roads. “I enjoy the speed of the train. It’s more efficient than the bus,” Abbas Ali, 36, told the Guardian.

Lahore was on the Orange Line for the first time
Lahore was on the Orange Line for the first time. Railways will improve the lives of many people in the city. Photographer: Sabrina Topa

It is also an honor for the approximately 3,700 Pakistani workers to run the line. Mukhtar Ali, 35, who was trained in Beijing before the launch, said, “I am very happy.

“I want to thank China – they launched a great service that is affordable, safe and comfortable,” said Mahjabeen Qaiser, 36, a mother traveling with her young son.

“China is Pakistan’s deepest friend,” Shehzad said, with Chinese and Pakistani employees in black conductor hats inspecting the train, pointing to the station platform. “It’s a testament to that strong friendship.”

In the background, high-tech screens show animated videos of people using tokens to exit stations, while a robotic voice names the next stop. “If we hadn’t been friends with China, who knows if we’d ever got a train like that,” says Shehzad.

Reporting on this story was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

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