Barely a week after the announcement by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that they were reinitiating work on the Shakarparian cricket stadium project, former International Cricket Council (ICC) president Ehsan Mani has rubbished the viability of the facility.
“Islamabad does not have a big population and doesn’t need a big stadium which will become a white elephant. [Large stadia] are often economically unviable and difficult to maintain,” Mani said while addressing a press conference at National Press Club on Friday.
PCB reinitiates Shakarparian cricket stadium
He also said that the project, if executed, will also cause irrevocable environment damage to the federal capital.
The former ICC president said that building a cricket stadium and a railway station in Shakarparian would require the felling of thousands of trees. He said that as an environmentalist and a citizen, he opposed the idea of building a stadium and a railway station at the proposed site.
“The area was once was full of trees which are disappearing fast due to unplanned and illegal development by the civic agency itself,” he said, adding that he has not spoken to the authorities on the issue but was simply drawing attention to it out of love for the city and the country.
The cash-strapped Capital Development Authority and the PCB signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012 under which the CDA allotted 35 acres near Shakarparian for the construction of the stadium. Under the MoU, 30 per cent of income from international matches and sponsorships would go to the CDA, with the remaining 70 per cent to go to the PCB. The project, however, fell through due to the PCB’s own financial basket case.
Mani said that Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, which is just six kilometres from Shakarparian, could be upgraded.
“[While] all existing stadiums are in bad shape, they need immediate upgradation instead of the construction of new ones,” Mani said.
“If the PCB intends to promote cricket nationally, it should spend the Rs2 billion (estimated cost of the stadium) to promote regional cricket in other areas including in Southern Punjab, northern parts of the country, interior Sindh, and Balochistan to hunt for real talent,” he said.
Shakarparian is also part of Margalla Hills National Park which was protected by the Islamabad Wildlife Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance, 1979. With an implicit reference to security issues, he said no big teams such as England, India, Australia or Sri Lanka would be touring Pakistan for the next five years.
Much-needed: PCB to initiate work on cricket stadium
From forest to concrete jungle
“Why do you want to build a stadium in a forest area?” Mani questioned.
“In Islamabad, groundwater is a major source of drinking water and these trees help store it. Ruthless felling of trees will not only cause flooding and land erosion, but will also create water shortages.
Mani, who is also a qualified accountant, also explained why he felt the project would not be profitable.
“None of Pakistan’s cricket stadia have capacities of 50,000 seats. If it is built, it would be the largest stadium in country. How will the PCB manage and maintain it? Where will they generate revenue? They are trying to get a hotel operator to finance the project,” Mani said.
He called on the Climate Change Ministry and the Pak-EPA to not issue no-objection certificates for the stadium. He said the money could be diverted to building smaller cricket grounds in the country to help discover young talent.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2016.