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SAHIWAL: The Chichawatni forest park needs immediate attention and allocation of funds from the provincial government and forest authorities.

The park has become a deserted place owing to negligence of the provincial authorities.

The divisional forest office was trying hard to maintain the only recreational facility, but lack of funds and labour force was hindering their efforts. Local forest authorities confirmed they received Rs90,000 per annum to maintain the 12.5-acre park on the outskirts of Chichawatni city.

The park was developed near Chichawatni forest -- the second manmade forest after Changa Manga – during 2002-03 with Rs2.3 million. Major funds had been provided by the district government and the rest were taken from the funds of the then Chichawatni MNA Rai Azizullah. A water lake and a jogging track were also developed in the park. The park was handed over to the Divisional Forest Department on Jan 14, 2003.

“Though the park was developed with a handsome amount, but no arrangements were made for its running expenses,” an insider told Dawn on anonymity.

At that time the park did not have a boundary wall as it had been decided that the provincial forest department would allocate funds for it.

“Eleven years have passed but the park still does not have a wall,” Waqas, a citizen who goes to the park for a morning walk, told Dawn.

District Forest Officer Syed Tabassum said the provincial forest department only allocated Rs90,000, which had now increased to Rs200,000 for maintenance of the park. Currently, there was no gardener at the park, tubewell for irrigation, boundary wall, watchman, lake, funds for running expenses or even an electricity connection. Its only water source was the canal, where water was available from April to October.

No contractor was ready to take charge of the park as it lacked all facilities, including toilets and washrooms. The DFO said in the last few months a few gardeners were being temporarily shifted to the park from Chichawatni forest but they could not maintain it completely. The divisional department had also sent a development plan under PC-I several times but it was turned downed by the provincial department.

Waqas, a member of a citizens group Constituency Relation Group, told Dawn funds allocation needed support from the local MNA/MPA. “No lawmaker is interested in it,” he added.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Rai Hasan Nawaz had become MNA from Chichawatni in the last general elections.

Talking to Dawn, he said: “I lack development funds as I am an opposition MNA.”

Dawn learnt from sources that a local citizens group had talked to Chaudhry Arshad Jutt, a PML-N MPA and strong ally of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, but he said his constituents had not come up with demands of maintaining the park.

Jutt claimed the people told him such developments were not important for them as they preferred soling, sewerage and construction of roads in their areas.

Citizens demand the MPA talk to the chief minister and demand allocation of funds and permanent gardeners for the forest park.

DFO Tabassum said Rs10 million were needed to make the park a recreational facility again.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014