Karachi’s green belts turned into commercial areas

Tea stalls, toy shops set up at the partition between opposite way roads obstruct traffic, destroy plantations

Amir Khan April 12, 2024
Green belts were once the pride of Karachi but today they have been turned into illegal business zones. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE


Green belts, the world over, are reserved for tree plantation, decoration or advertisement purposes since their narrow width and dangerous location between two parallel roads, renders them highly unsafe and unfeasible for human activity yet in Pakistan's commercial hub, Karachi, the same green belts are not only being used by pedestrians for walking purposes but are also acting as business zones for tea stall owners, who are happily serving customers amidst the hustle of honking cars on either side.

Where encroachments on highways and footpaths had already caused ample disturbances to the flow of traffic and activity of pedestrians, the most recent violation on roads across the city is the presence of small stalls and sellers on green belts, which apart from disturbing commuters by blocking their way also destroy the greenery planted on the belt.

"Seats and tables have been placed on green belts by owners of tea hotels. As a result, the green belts have been transformed into a spot where people sit and enjoy tea at night. Human activity on the belts has destroyed their greenery," observed Waqar, a resident of Liaquatabad.

Waqar's claims were confirmed when the Express Tribune spotted a number of vendors selling a variety of food items and children's play toys at a green belt near Nazimabad. Mohsin, a local who was casually strolling along the belt with his family, revealed that after sunset many people visited the green belts for recreation purposes. "Since parks in Karachi are in ruins, people have no choice but to turn to green beltsfor their evening walks," shrugged Mohsin.

Also read: Pedestrianised Burns Road in Karachi brings back foodies

According to Laila Raza, an urban planner and leader of an organization active in urban issues, the road network of Karachi was already in a state of disrepair with several encroachments on footpaths and highways but now the green belts of the city were also being used for business purposes. "Businesses are run 24 hours a day on green belts across areas like Gulistan-e-Johar, Korangi, Teen Hatti, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, and so on. The customers frequenting these tea houses and food vendors litter the green beltwhile simultaneously damaging the plantations," claimed Raza.

Agreeing with Raza, Yasir Hussain, an environmentalist, highlighted the damage that human activity entailed for green belts in the city. "Plantations are already scarce in Karachi and commercial activities on green belts are destroying them further. A citywide plantation campaign is the need of the hour right now," urged Hussain.

On a separate note, Muhammad Saad Khan, a social leader emphasized the fact that green belts served the sole purpose of enhancing the aesthetics of the city just like footpaths were for pedestrians, and highways were for heavy traffic movement. "Unfortunately, city highways, footpaths, and green belts in Karachi have been converted into commercial areas and encroachments are endless," regretted Khan.

"Green belts were once the pride of Karachi but today they have been turned into illegal business zones, courtesy the neglect of the local administration," expressed Muhammad Kashif, a social leader.

"Green belts should be off-limits for business activity. Moreover, more trees must be planted on the greenbelts and walkways to improve the city's aesthetic appeal. In this regard, a master plan is required to restore Karachi's roads, walkways, and green belts," added Muhammad Tawheed, a Karachi-based urban planner.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on the matter, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC)'s Municipal Commissioner Afzal Zaidi said, "The anti-encroachment department is working day and night to eradicate encroachments on the main highways, sidewalks, and green belts in Karachi. KMC takes vigorous measures for the construction and protection of green belts and shall continue to do so in the future."


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