Sunday Jul 04 2021

As Karachi's concrete jungle expands, work on People's Urban Forest moves at a snail's pace

KARACHI: Pakistan's largest city is a jungle of poorly-planned buildings and concrete structures that never ceases to expand. However, as its concrete jungle continues to expand, work on the People's Urban Forest Programme continues to move at a snail's pace.

Due to an enormous increase in Karachi's concrete jungle and constructions, not only has the metropolis's structure suffered but also, the environmental conditions have rendered it one of the most dangerous cities in the world to live in. 

Hence, the provincial government's Peoples Urban Forest programme was seen as a breath of fresh air by Karchiites. However, work on the programme has been so slow that only 10% of the project has been completed while 90% of it remains incomplete. 

A special part of this project is that local trees will be planted on 26km of land stretching from Mauripur Road to Sohrab Goth. However, a forest officer told Geo News that besides technical hurdles, the project is also facing stiff resistance from criminals. 

"The first phase of our project has almost been completed," said Forest Officer Inayat Panhwar. "We were supposed to plant 36,000 saplings but we ended up planting more than 60,000," he added. 

He said criminals and drug traffickers were acting as impediments to the project. "At times, we see fires are started and at times, garbage is thrown in this area," he lamented. "We are faced with a lot of problems."

More than 60,000 guavas, jasmine, chicory, pomegranate, neem, cactus, papyrus and other local trees have been planted on land exceeding three kilometres and 50 acres, from Mauripur to Sher Shah Bridge.

Further progress on the forest programme is expected to take place after the monsoon rains whereas further work on the project will be possible only after the completion of the S-III sewerage plan. 

Divisional Forest Officer Tahir Lutf said if one was to dig two to three feet below the ground in this area, he/she would find nothing except polythene bags. 

"However, even in such (abysmal) conditions, you can see the growth of our plantations," he said. "You can see how healthy they are. There are fruit orchards here. To plant fruits in these conditions is nothing short of a miracle, in my opinion," he added. 

Lutf said till the Waterboard's S-III plan is not completed, it would not be clear where trees have to be planted and where no plantation has to take place. 

Experts say the People's Urban Forest programme, when completed, will significantly reduce environmental pollution in Karachi.