PESHAWAR: One of city’s main gardens, Wazir Bagh, is gradually falling into ruins after constant neglect.
The park dates back to the Mughal times. Situated in the southern part of the provincial capital, it caters to people living in surrounding areas. Previously, the park comprised of four large grounds with crisscrossing pavements. However, a few years ago one of its arms was turned into a football stadium and a huge wall was constructed in the middle of the ground. A pavilion and two other structures dating back to its very first construction are also falling apart down due to disrepair and lack of attention.
Two geysers installed in the park have been non-functional for more than a decade. The long oblong cisterns have turned into cesspools where only plastic bags among other garbage is seen floating. The park’s western wall has been torn down, which locals use as a shortcut to the park. In addition to this, children studying in eight nearby schools walk through the park on their ways to and from school.
Captain Yousaf, Town administrator in Nawaz Sharif’s leadership period, had allotted plots nearby for the park. However, the government later constructed a funeral prayer hall and two schools on the same land.
Bahadar, one of the park caretakers, said the area’s increasing population is the biggest hurdle in maintaining the area. Gardeners are not able to stop hundreds of people from using the ground for sports, which in turn damages plants.
“People do not even use the main road anymore, they use the garden as a shortcut,” Bahadar said. He suggested that there should be some entry fee, no matter how small, to reduce the number of visitors so as to protect the garden from further degradation.
Another gardener, not wanting to be named, said that only six out of 16 caretakers were still at work. “Five have been assigned to collect toll tax at Grand Trunk (GT) Road, while five others are working as tube-well operators,” he said. Last year, the Town Administration had tried to introduce a levy fee for the park, but did not succeed in doing so plausibly because of political pressure.
Town-I, in whose jurisdiction this park falls, constantly faces problems and finds it difficult to pay salaries to its employees. “Sometimes we get salary on the 10th of the month and sometimes even to the 20th,” he said.
Peshawar District Coordination Officer (DCO) Mohammad Javed Marwat told The Express Tribune that the district government is trying to rehabilitate Shahi Bagh under a project to be executed by the municipal authorities. We are currently holding proceedings in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) about a sports stadium and authorities are unable to launch a development initiative for Wazir Bagh because of this, said the DCO. He said that it was “unfortunate” that a comprehensive rehabilitation and reclamation plan could not be launched due to the litigation.
Archaeologist Dr Ahmed Hassan Dani writes that this garden was constructed sometime during 1803 to 1804 by Fatteh Mohammad Khan, the wazir of Durrani ruler Shah Mahmood. British explorer Sir Alexander Burnes, who later resided Kabul, also visited this park with the Peshawar ruler and described its beauty in detail.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.
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