Utter neglect: Encroached and littered, railways stadium no place to play

The ground is now a favourite hangout for drug users and stray dogs.


A small tent village. PHOTO: WAQAS NAEEM/EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI:


Much akin to its out-of-order engines and coaches, a stadium in Rawalpindi belonging to Pakistan Railways is in dire need of a facelift. Although major repairs and maintenance are in order, the cash-strapped department does not have the funds to carry out the work.


The stadium, which is spread over 40 to 45 acres, according to officials, has been neglected due to the financial crisis the department has been facing for the last few decades.

“There was a time when the ground was covered with thick green grass and large trees surrounding the stadium were used to take shelter during the scorching summer,” said Mohiuddin.

During the Ziaul Haq era, the army would have parades in the ground on special occasions. Regional cricket and football tournaments were organised and a large number of spectators would throng the stadium to enjoy the games.

“It has lost its character. Now you see drug addicts and stray animals loitering here,” said Munir Khan, a retired railway employee.

Broken, rusted fences, heaps of garbage all around and encroachments in the stadium discourage young people from surrounding localities to play there.

The stadium is covered with huge potholes which fill with water. In case of light rain, the ground becomes waterlogged and players cannot enter the stadium for weeks.

The pavilion’s doors and windows are broken, even the walls are crumbling. Drug addicts and stray animals are to be found within. An open-air enclosure for spectators has fallen in ruin. One corner of the stadium is occupied by gypsies who have been living in tents for the past several years.


A small tent village a peeping Tom in the pavilion and a field ‘lush’ with dirt welcome visitors to the ground. PHOTO: WAQAS NAEEM/EXPRESS

There used to be a boundary wall which has now disappeared. It was replaced with fences but now they too are rusting away. Waste generated by the Railways General Hospital is dumped in the ground, threatening players’ health. The hospital has been allotted a major portion of the stadium, distorting its shape. Taking a cue from the hospital, residents from surrounding localities dump solid waste in the ground.

“We have brought the issue to the authorities’ notice but no action has been taken,” said Sajid Mehmood, 28, a frequent visitor who plays cricket in the stadium.

Commenting on its condition, Muhammad Asghar said, “Sports grounds in the garrison city are fast disappearing. Some have been occupied by land grabbers and plazas have come up, while others are neglected.”

A large number of players frequent the ground, some of whom demanded Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the provincial government to restore the ground.

The car park at the entrance of the stadium has become a rickshaw and taxi stand where drivers wash their vehicles.

Divisional Superintendent Munawar Khan said the stadium, residential colonies and most of the department’s infrastructure were in a dilapidated condition.

“The financial crisis and not authorities’ negligence is responsible for the stadium’s condition.” The department is recovering from the crisis and will work to restore the stadium in the near future, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2014.

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