FAISALABAD: Intended for recreational use and leisurely breaks, public parks provide spaces for relaxation in bustling cities. However, a moment of repose in beautiful environs can only be enjoyed if these spaces are meticulously tended to by the management. A recreational park in Faisalabad is fast losing its charm due to inefficient management.
Established in 1991-92 at a cost of Rs15.676 million and situated 17 kilometers away from the city, the Gatwala Forest Park is spread over 131 acres. Once a lush and beautiful respite, has now fallen prey to the management’s apathy and is badly in need of renovation and maintenance. One of the few recreational spots in Faisalabad, the park was inaugurated by the then divisional commissioner Javed Qureshi (late).
Owing to its serene atmosphere, well-pruned jogging tracks, roads, beautiful fountains, swings, wild animals, birds and etc, the park used to attract a large number of visitors, including children. Now, however, the recreational facility presents a much less rosy picture, with faded and dying greens, out-of-order fountains and withered foliage.
Ducks swim in the lake.
The negligence of the forest department can be gauged from the fact that majority of the washrooms are in a filthy state and most of them are always locked, inconveniencing visitors. Dried-up yellow patches indicate sad remnants of lush green grass, while most species of animals and birds kept for the amusement of the visitors have gradually vanished from the park.
The Gatwala Forest Park consists of a grassy lawn on 53 acres, Zoological Garden on 40 acres, a lake on five acres, mounds on two acres, bamboo groves on two acres, rose garden on 27 acres with Gazebo, walking and jogging tracks, camping grounds and metalled roads.
The management of the park has hired a number of employees, who are responsible for the park’s maintainence round-the-clock.
In addition, the huge recreational park consists of hundreds of trees, including Eucalyptus, Shisham. Glub, Beri Patta, Gul-e-Nashter, Gul Hur, Marva and others. It also houses different species of animals, including dears, Mouflon, black bucks, monkeys, rabbits, crocodiles, pefowls, cranes, partridge, pigeons etc.
When the park was opened to public more than two decades back, it served as a recreational spot for the people of Faisalabad and its adjoining areas and tourists.
An out-of-order fountain in the park. PHOTO: EXPRESS
However, the negligence of the government and authorities and fear of terrorism has damaged the park’s repute and now only a few visitors visit the recreational facility as compared to 12,000 to 15,000 in earlier days. With the passage of time, the park became a den of criminals, a permanent nuisance for the citizens and park adminiatration.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, a visitor Mian Muhammad Irfan said, “The management did not make new additions in the park. It is a human nature that people want change but till date nothing worthy has been done.” He added, “There is no proper security system and the park’s management has banned the entry of people after sunset.”
Another visitor Muhammad Tariq said, “The management has failed to keep maintenance of the park on regular basis.” He pointed out, “Fear of terrorism and lack of proper food facilities are also the main cause of low turnout of visitors.”
When approached, District Forest Department Chief Syed Ejaz Hussain Shirazi told The Express Tribune, “We cannot keep maintenance of the park as we are provided funds on a special scheme basis.”
He admitted that the park remained neglected for years due to scarcity of funds. He said, “Various projects have been undertaken for the development of the park, including construction of new toilets, jogging tracks, parking area and a boundary wall.”
The official said, “We need a special grant on permanent basis and a sustainable system to develop the park at par with international standards.”
He lamented, “The government provides the administration grants on annual basis for addition and improvement of the park but funds are not provided for its repair and maintenance. Therefore, the park suffers various shortcomings.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2017.