The follies of finishing off Karachi’s foliage
KARACHI: It will take many, many years to bring back the pleasant weather and rainfall Karachi once enjoyed, said environmentalist Tofiq Pasha.
Experts gave advice and suggestions to improve the greenery of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) and the kinds of trees that should be planted at the ‘Greener DHA’ seminar on Friday, jointly organised by DHA and the Institute of Architects Pakistan’s Karachi Chapter at the Defence Authority Country and Golf Club.
Pasha explained that planting trees today would not change the climate overnight nor would the heat we created go away easily. “It takes 15 to 20 years for a tree to mature and it takes years, decades, to change the climate of a region. To bring back rainfall in the city and decrease heat may take years,” he warned.
It was decided to hold the seminar in January after DHA officials chopped down trees in Phase I, which led to a protest by residents. During the demonstration, residents were manhandled by DHA vigilance officers and, after negotiations, the DHA officials and the aggrieved residents decided to hold an awareness seminar on the importance of trees.
At the seminar, Pasha spoke of a time in Karachi when one could traverse the entire city in shade due to the multitude of trees. He reminisced about the trees in Old Clifton and on Club Road, near the Karachi Gymkhana, which are no more.
About climate change, he said that it is raining in places like Dubai as it has become greener and in areas where it used to rain, it has stopped raining.
Talking about the heatwave where more than 1,000 people died in Karachi alone, he said that several groups got together and planted trees. “It was hogwash and a photo session. Not a single tree planted is present today. Last June, they planted lignum near Hill Park, they stopped giving them water and they died.”
“No one goes to the parks in DHA in the afternoon as there is neither shade nor trees in the parks,” said Pasha, suggesting that trees should be planted according to the space one has and peepal cannot be planted in the narrow lanes of DHA. He advised residents to cover the boundary walls of their homes with creepers.
In an emotional plea, he implored, “It takes five minutes with a chainsaw or an hour with kulhari to cut a 60- to 70-year-old tree. Please don’t cut trees.”
Head of University of Karachi’s visual studies department, Durriya Kazi gave an informative presentation and compared Karachi with Singapore, giving suggestions on how DHA officials could take tips from Singapore. She said that in 1963 Singapore’s prime minister started a tree-planting campaign and today the country has large green belt and several parks.
Speaking on DHA, Kazi pointed out that mature trees are missing in the area. She said that lignum has been massacred all over Karachi to make space for conocarpus, which is not suitable for roadside planting.
She said that the space under underpasses, such as Gizri, should be utilised for green spaces. “Why not declare Gulmohar the national tree of Karachi?” she suggested.
DHA administrator Brigadier Zubair Ahmed said that ideas and suggestion would be taken in consideration. “Last year, 50,000 trees were planted in collaboration with Cantonment Board Clifton in DHA and 25,000 planted in the DHA city,” he said. “On a lighter note, if there were no trees cut in DHA, there would have been no seminar,” he quipped.