Despite strong resistance from the town administrations over the establishment of the Parks and Horticulture Agency (PHA), the agency in its brief time has shown determination to improve the visual appeal of the garrison city.
Much of its initial efforts have been focused on the southern entry route to Rawalpindi, on and along Mareer Chowk and Benazir Bhutto Road. The agency’s first mark was the overhead railway bridge near Liaquat Bagh, built during the British Raj, which received a significant overhaul and has been refashioned as “the gate to the city”.
The underpass has been embellished with old wooden doors, windows and balconies resembling those of ancient areas of Raja Bazaar, Bagh Sardaran and Purana Qila, besides receiving a vivid paintjob in hues of yellow and brown.
The project to renovate the overhead railway bridge was conceived and then executed by architects of National College of Arts (NCA), after the approval of the Rawalpindi Authority (RDA), at a cost of Rs2 million. The beautification work was complete within two months.
“The new look of the railway bridge, with paintings of ancient buildings and houses, is a pleasant sight for commuters,” said Muhammad Sadaf, a local who commutes between the twin cities on public transport.
“I occasionally had to wait in prolonged traffic jams near the bridge, which used to look quite ugly with movie posters haphazardly glued along its walls.”
Work done at the Committee Chowk underpass has artistic appeal of its own. On the walls of the underpass, NCA artists have carved out relief sculptures of initial forms of wheels and animals used for transportation, such as elephants, camels, bulls and horses, depicting the evolution of transportation from the ancient to the modern era. This project was completed in six weeks of its stipulated time at a cost of Rs1 million.
“The agency is planning to improve the landscape of the Railway Bridge, for which the services of different horticulturists are being sought,” said PHA Managing Director Captain (retd) Mushtaq Ahmed. Trees and grass will be planted on both sides of the bridge to improve its landscape, he said.
Briefing on other ongoing projects, he said that with the help of a sponsor, a floral clock will be established opposite Moti Mahal Chowk on the bank of Nullah Leh, which is expected to be completed after Eid.
He said that in another on-going project, an “Azadi Wall” will be establishing outside Liaqat Bagh, portraying the culture of the four provinces of Pakistan and images of leaders of the Pakistan Movement.
He urged the public not to deface and degrade the artwork by pasting posters and stickers on roadside walls and under bridges.
PHA is currently facing litigation from the municipal authorities against the transfer of their staff, equipment and control of city parks to the agency.
They have challenged that management of parks and beautification of the city is the duty of municipal authorities and does not fall under the jurisdiction of RDA or any of its agencies, including PHA.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.