Did govt know BRT project would uproot newly planted trees?

Govt may lose millions since not all plants can be relocated

Izhar Ullah November 10, 2017
Govt may lose millions since not all plants can be relocated. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: Two years after they had been planted to add to some greenery to the otherwise dour urban outlook of the provincial capital, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has started removing thousands of plants and trees planted along several thoroughfares to make way for the new bus corridor.

The move, officials say, will cost the government millions — not to mention the lost foliage.

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The government had planted saplings on various locations in the city including the centre, median and along the sides of the main GT Road, University Road and along various roads in Hayatabad.

However, since construction on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) started, the government has started removing these plants, costing the exchequer over Rs80 million.

Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) Horticulture Director Mian Shakeel told The Express Tribune that around 60 per cent of the plants planted, have now grown up. Despite that, these will now be removed to make way for the BRT.

He explained that the plants had been planted under the Peshawar Beatification Programme on the directives of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak at a cost of over Rs1 billion —  distributed amongst various departments for the beautification of the city.

The PDA, Shakeel said, had received Rs400 million to plant trees in areas which fall under its jurisdiction.

“Total of Rs80 million was spent on the plantation on main thoroughfares of the city while the rest of the money was spent on other beautification projects,” he explained.

However, he clarified that around 60 per cent of these plants would be relocated to other places rather than being cut.

When asked why did the government not keep the possibility of projects such as BRT in mind before spending millions on the plantation, he said that the government had first planned to lay a railway track but that project was later cancelled.

However, the BRT documents, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, stated that a pre-feasibility of the project was conducted in 2014 — before the trees were planted. The feasibility report had proposed a route from Chamkani to Karkhano market which was ultimately adopted as the final route for BRT.

Despite knowing that the project may be built over areas where the trees were being planted, the government went ahead with planting saplings. Two years on, the government is now uprooting these trees following feasibilities for the project.

The owner of a nursery, who wished not to be named for fear of government retribution, told The Express Tribune that the plants which the government wishes to uproot and replant in other places are not fully growing yet and could be damaged during the relocation since the current season is unfeasible for plantation.

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Shakeel endorsed the views of the nursery owner, noting that the plants were not fully grown up. However, he assured that the PDA was removing the plants along with the soil and root without exposing them.

“Only 10-12 per cent of the plants which will be removed will be damaged while we expect 85-90 per cent of the plants to continue their growth after relocation,” the PDA official said, adding, that 60 per cent of the plants will be removed from the sides of BRT corridor while the center median will be completely removed.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2017.

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