KARACHI has been overwhelmed by growth, with the resultant abundance of noise, pollution and dust. Like many other urban areas, the value of green spaces has been lost due to rapidly increasing population.
As the commercial heart of the country, Karachi has always welcomed people from across Pakistan as well as migrants from outside our borders. Consequently, to accommodate all these people the metropolis has become an agglomeration of bricks and concrete. Encroachments have gradually swallowed up land and green space has diminished. What is more, the local authorities have neglected the preservation of green spaces.
Today, parks in Karachi are not a luxury but a necessity for the people who live in cramped and congested neighbourhoods. Parks are not just used by the elite but have become essential for all residents of the city, from children to senior citizens. Parks are ideal for well-being and health, to get away from the rigours of loadshedding, in order to be close to nature, and most importantly to give youngsters an opportunity to explore their natural surroundings and a chance to get out of the house. That is why nowadays nearly all parks have separate areas for kids, where they can explore and enjoy all kind of rides and swings.
Keeping in view the growing health needs, most community parks offer a separate area for exercise, spaces for indoor and outdoor games and different activities including jogging and walking. Many parks also have cafeterias and tuck shops, where individuals can enjoy food and drinks.
Historically, many Muslim cities have featured parks. When the city of Cairo was built by the Fatimids, the royal parks and gardens were a prominent feature. When the Mughals ruled South Asia, they constructed the Shalamar Gardens in Lahore. Each of these efforts reflect, in their own manner, a belief in the importance of green spaces and the quality of life.
But in modern Karachi land is becoming more and more precious, and green spaces have been sold off or occupied. Looking at this situation, the authorities need to seriously reflect on the importance of parks. Simply put, more parks are needed in the city so people can spend their time in a meaningful manner, closer to nature.
Parks can also play a role in minimising heat and pollution in the city, acting as they do as the ‘lungs’ of a city. The diversity of plants and flowers is an added bonus.
We need to realise that green spaces enhance the quality of life. Many current parks of Karachi serve as great recreation spots due to proper administration and good care. These efforts need to be replicated. Parks and gardens can also contribute to creating jobs locally as well as social and cultural development.—Farhan Jumani