Metro bus project: Over 1,000 trees face the axe -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Metro bus project: Over 1,000 trees face the axe

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Flawed route alignment for the twin cities’ metro bus if implemented, will cost the leafy capital around 1,040 trees aged two to 40 years.

According to the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) Environment Wing calculations, out of 1,040 trees some 240 including 85 pine trees are of age 40 years and above. Most of these 240 trees are located along Jinnah Avenue and fall within the approved route alignment of the bus project.

There are 800 trees on a greenbelt located between the 8-series sectors and the 9th Avenue. These trees are of age between two to four years. Out of these 800 some 180 are young pine trees.

“In the greenbelt located between Peshawar Mor and IJP Road there are some 650 young trees of different species, including rosewood, pine, fiddlewood and amaltas,” said a senior official of the CDA Environment Wing, who declined to be named. The trees were planted after the construction of 9th Avenue in 2009. Trees located along Jinnah Avenue are older than 40 years, he added.

CDA has no plan to deal with the proposed master plan violation. The officer, who has been serving in the Environment Wing for years, said in reply to a question, “It’s possible to relocate younger trees. But it involves great expertise, resources and funds, which the CDA lacks.”

The relocation of trees older than 30 years is almost impossible as the CDA does not have the expertise, he said. “During the construction of the Zero Point Interchange, CDA relocated around 20 pine trees to Arts and Craft Village near Shakarparian and other places. But they did not survive.” The rate of survival of relocated old trees drops to around 40 per cent, he added.

Nespak, which designed the project, has proposed the expansion of 9th Avenue and Jinnah Avenue to develop a dedicated corridor for the metro bus, which involves the elimination of a green belt stretching over hundreds of acres east of Agha Shahi Avenue, commonly known as 9th Avenue, and west of sectors I-8, H-8 and G-8. The consultant has suggested widening Jinnah Avenue up to six feet on either side.

To avoid bulldozing the greenbelt, CDA had asked Nespak to incorporate the central median on 9th Avenue to develop a corridor for the metro bus, instead of uprooting whole greenbelts and hundreds of young trees. To their surprise, Nespak refused to even consider the suggestion and informed the CDA that the design had already been approved and incorporating the changes was not possible.

A senior most officer of the Environment Wing said ‘high-ups’ had directed him to not to speak about the project to the media, but he did say said the CDA had decided to relocate all the trees which fall in the proposed route of the project.

He claimed that not even a single tree would be uprooted along Jinnah Avenue, while trees along 9th Avenue would be relocated. When asked about the rate of survival of relocated trees, he claimed it was above 80 per cent.

Relevant officers of CDA’s Environment Wing refused to talk on the record on the issue.

Express Tribune