Parks, playgrounds, and other open amenity plots function as lungs in big cities, but several such places have either been encroached upon in Karachi and Hyderabad or they are being used as wedding lawns or as special bazaars. Not only are these activities harming the people in multiple ways, they are also obstructing the flow of fresh air. Encroachers have demolished the boundary wall of a large park in Lyari area of Karachi, and on the land illegal structures have proliferated. The authorities have failed to remove these structures. A bachat bazaar has been set up in a hockey ground in another locality in violation of the law. The provincial government justifies the establishment of the bazaar on the grounds that it is bringing in revenue. The Sindh High Court has questioned the use of playgrounds for commercial purposes and has sought an explanation from the government. The land mafia is encroaching upon the lands of a graveyard in another area. The mafia is reportedly grabbing the cemetery land under the garb of setting up separate graveyards. People have moved the high court to get these lands freed from encroachments.
While removing commercial establishments the authorities should also prepare alternative plans to enable the displaced shopkeepers to carry on their businesses at other locations. In the past, the worst victims of anti-encroachment drives had been poor workers as they had rendered large numbers of them jobless. The wrong use of sports venues reminds of the encroachments on Niyaz Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad. For many years, this stadium has been neglected and large chunks of its land have reportedly been illegally occupied. The grounds of Pakistan Hockey Club in Karachi are reportedly being used as wedding lawns for the past several years. Now movies contain such dialogues ‘Yeh tau kisi hockey player ka naam maloom hota hai (This sounds like the name of some hockey player).’ This shows the neglect of the game in which Pakistan once excelled.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2021.
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