City of streams

In this piece, I confine to mourning the slow death of the capital, Islamabad.

Rasul Bakhsh Rais July 01, 2013
The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

There is just one city, Islamabad, that is a city of natural streams, flowing out of perennial and seasonal springs of the Margalla hills. Just stepping onto the trails from any part of the hills, one can notice pure water gurgling over the boulders and rough stones. These beautiful streams in hundreds have sustained wildlife for thousands of years. Those of us who are fortunate to have seen Islamabad in the early years, myself in the early 1970s, have a good memory of natural streams full of clear as crystal water flowing through the settled areas of the then beautiful city. Sadly, we don’t see them anymore in the same natural state.

The city or urban life has produced culture, knowledge, science, technology and everything that is part of civilisation. The best, liveable countries around the world are known and admired for many things that they have done for their citizens and humanity at large. The centrepiece of their success is that they have made city life comfortable and enjoyable. City leaders constantly think of parks and trees and try to preserve what is natural along with creating a balance between natural resources and development. Our country and we, unfortunately, cannot compare with any other country in the world for the low levels that we have touched in every aspect of life from material to spiritual.

Sadly, we can mourn the slow death of every city of Pakistan from Karachi to Peshawar. Rapacious politicians, bureaucrats, mafias, gangs, encroachers and greedy developers have destroyed our cities by turning the law on its head. In this piece, I just confine to mourning the slow death of the capital, Islamabad. Any nation would have been very proud of the natural endowment of Islamabad — green hills, natural streams, good quality of soil and the variety of trees and flowers that one can grow. Had this city been in a better-governed state and a more civilised society, we would have seen cafes, parks, bicycle tracks, walking and jogging trails and forests around the streams from beginning to the end.

Instead, what we see today is that the streams are full of stinking raw sewerage, garbage and pieces of plastic and polythene bags floating. The stench is all over the streets and areas close to the streams that were once full of wild fish and colourful birds hovering over the mulberry, kachnar and phulai trees. How has this happened and what can be done? First, it is our citizens — educated and affluent, who are discharging raw sewer into the stormwater lines ending in the streams. I can personally show hundreds of such households in my neighbourhood. Bigger than this is the issue of the Air Force, Naval sectors and E-11, the Police Foundation and many other now “legalised” colonies that have no sewerage system of their own and throw everything into the streams. The Diplomatic Enclave and Quaid-i-Azam University — with better-educated men and women — are releasing sewerage into streams ending up in the Rawal dam. At the north-eastern end of the city, Bharakoh settlements that are now moving up to the Margalla hills pollute the streams and the dam. This has happened with the collapse of the Capital Development Authority and due to its capture by fortune seekers. The story of Lahore and other cities releasing raw sewage into the rivers — the once historic Ravi — is no different.

What can be done? First, stop the outsiders — politicians and bureaucrats — from ruining Islamabad. Second, take the CDA and every other polluter of streams to the courts. Finally, let us volunteer to restore nature by reviving the natural streams of the city — one at a time, with sustainable efforts.

Endnote: May I request the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take a suo-motu action on the city streams issue?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd,  2013.

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qaiser | 9 years ago | Reply

yeah. v have one. i dont know y u cant c it. be optimistic bro

Rafiq Mangi | 9 years ago | Reply

This is really a fantastic write-up regarding the conservation of natural streams in Pakistan; there are many more other as well. As River Indus have many big and small cities on its both banks. The bigger cities are Sukkur and Hyderabad. But unfortunately filthy or sewerage water of both cities are flowing in the river at upper side and lower side water supplies pipes are collecting water for human consumption. This is really dangerous for human health. And those cities, towns, villages or small populations where ground water is brackish and using river or canal water are really drinking poison.

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