The ruthless greed of the city’s administration has reared its ugly head once more as rumours emerge that it plans to chop down 1,400 trees in front of the Dolmen City in order to pave way for billboards, The Express Tribune learnt on Wednesday.
Senior officials of the Sindh government and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) plan on chopping down the trees planted in a three-acre area called the ‘city forest’. The trees were planted in 2008 in an attempt to beautify the city and to improve the environment. “The officials plan to give the contract to an advertising firm for billboards,” claimed a KMC official who wished to remain anonymous. “These Corynocarpus trees are the lungs of the city. A total of 2.5 million trees were planted to counter the city’s environmental pollution. The city will be unable to breathe if the trees are cut down, and a population of nearly 23 million people will be affected.”
Former KMC administrator Fahim Zaman Khan also confirmed these rumours. “There is a strong possibility that these may turn out to be true,” he said. “Even ministers are involved.”
Khan added that this is not the only incident of KMC endorsing the removal of trees in the area. “A restaurant in the vicinity also removed the trees around it in order to provide seating arrangements outside its premises,” he said. “They are getting away with whatever they want. Civil society members, non-governmental organisations, the media and all those who love this city should raise their voices if they want to prevent this.”
To highlight the gravity of the situation, Khan added that thousands of trees are being callously chopped down in the entire city, and while everyone has noticed them, very few take any action regarding it.
A member of the Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment, Dr Raza Gardizi, claimed that the chopping down of these trees will be extremely detrimental to the environment, as well as to the appearance of the city. “If someone does intend on cutting down these trees then our organisation will resist them at all costs.”
KMC claims ignorance
However, KMC administrator Rauf Akhtar Farooqui while talking to The Express Tribune says that while he could not vouch for the provincial government, he is certain that no KMC officials are involved. “I don’t know if senior members of the Sindh government are involved in this or not, but I can assure you that if something like this surfaces, then the KMC will fight it with all its resources,” he said. “I can promise you that while I sit on the administrator’s chair, those trees will not be harmed.”
When contacted, KMC parks and horticulture director Abdul Haseeb claimed that he is unaware of any plan to chop down these trees. However, he added that an inquiry will be made into the matter and KMC staff will be meanwhile deployed to ensure that no trees are harmed. “No one will even lay a hand on them,” he claimed.
SHC prevents cutting down of trees
In December 23, 2011, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had ordered against the cutting down of green trees along the Sharae Faisal, one of the city’s main arteries.
A citizen, Shakeel Ahmed, had gone to court against the Karachi Cantonment Executive Officer and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation on the cutting of green trees planted along the main Sharae Faisal from the Gora Qabristan to the main gate of the Regent Plaza for ‘advertising purposes and for earning revenue at the expense of the environment’.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.