Bald or beautiful – Islamabad!

I read an interesting article in dawn … so I thought I should share it with all here.

TILL only a few years back, before landing in Islamabad one could see from the window of the plane lush green trees covering the capital terrain. Manicured roads running parallel to the tall buildings of Blue Area and government monuments, the Faisal Mosque, Shakar Parian and many other streets neatly placed on the green canvas. This was the pre-Lashari era, the period Islooites refer to before Mr Kamran Lashari took over as Chairman CDA.

Over the last couple of years, the scene has totally changed. Now when you land in Islamabad, all you see is the high risers clustered with huge billboards, of multinational companies, ranging 10 feet in height to 20 feet in width or even more, and areas once called the green belts of Islamabad now being used as parking lots.

The green cover of Islamabad is vanishing and all the blame is given to the master plan. The martyrdom of trees is going on in the name of development. Expansion of roads is in full swing. Two ways are turning into three ways. A massive tree chopping spree is on by the Authority. Green belts which were an asset of Islamabad are turned into proper parking lots by institutions, corporate sectors and the armed forces, all with the blessings of CDA.

The plans of CDA to take over several parks and playgrounds in Islamabad for other developmental purposed, have been taken very seriously not only by environmentalists but the general public too. Demos are being held from time to time by Islooites to voice their concerns against the move to eliminate parks and playgrounds from various sectors. Chanting slogans, protesters comprising environmentalists and members of NGOs working for protection of environment, are also joined by women and children carrying banners and placards opposing the large scale felling of trees. The planned conversion of a children’s park in F-7 into a commercial mini-golf course has already been a hot topic of discussion and criticism. The Supreme Court has stayed construction on the project and it would be subjudice to write anything on the issue which has been talked about in the capital so much.

The reason for felling of trees is given as solving the traffic problems of Islamabad, and because it was earmarked in the master plan. So if people are buying more and more cars thanks to easy leasing and if there are at least two cars per household, then perhaps it’s time people also get used to the traffic jams. As far as the master plan is concerned, then we all know how much it has been tampered with. Yes, we do need to invest in a good transport system. Any number of roads will not be enough as people having cars should get used to the traffic jam as well. These are the perks that accompany development. Why does every single track road has to be doubled, and doubled road tripled. What after that?

“There has been a lot of CDA bashing and what one ignores is that CDA reflects what we are,” expresses one environmentalist, referring to the numerous cases when the first thing people do is chop down a tree in front of the house when constructing or renovating it. “Sometimes it’s just one resourceful man who is able to force CDA to cut down the 20 years old Sumbul trees of the entire F-8 sector,” she adds.

Unfortunately, it is already too late as too many beautiful old trees have been under the axe and while driving around Islamabad it hurts to see the landscape so bare. But there has to be more environment awareness at all levels. The only hope lies with a few concerned citizens of the capital who would like to preserve its pristine beauty.

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