Does Lahore really need a ‘Disneyland’?

Published November 17, 2015
The development cost for the world-class theme park and aquarium is even higher than the astronomical sum needed for the Metrobus projects. —Photo courtesy of Disneyland.com
The development cost for the world-class theme park and aquarium is even higher than the astronomical sum needed for the Metrobus projects. —Photo courtesy of Disneyland.com

It isn’t difficult to see why Pakistan hungers for entertainment. We are perpetually swamped with social, economic and security crises and get little respite. Even the highly anticipated international cricketing events have been taken away from us.

On the other hand, Pakistani television is the victim of a savage ratings game, where producers are unwilling to experiment with fresh programming ideas. In the morning, ridiculous talk shows are broadcast where both hosts and guests lack the skill and charisma required to create content worth watching.

The evenings are even more depressing. News channels offer the most mind-numbing programmes that quickly disintegrate into shouting contests, and our dramas recycle each other's material so relentlessly they should probably be given a Greenpeace award.

As a result, gardens, shopping malls and fast food joints are swarming with people during the weekends.

Also read: Lahore Disneyland-like facility to cost Rs36 billion

Like many others, I was a little stunned to learn that the Punjab government has signed a contract with a Chinese company named the ‘Golden Bean Industry Group’ to build a world-class theme park and aquarium in Lahore for a whopping private investment of 36 billion rupees. It is said that this park will boast rides as spectacular as those at Disneyland.

Certainly, such an agreement will create jobs and attract future businesses, all of which speaks well of the Punjab government’s vision of turning Lahore into a modern city.

Yet, there are some who question if a soulless theme park is really necessary in a country deprived of power, food, education and one that is also fast losing its heritage sites?

Others ask if it’s not more important to consider investing in the promotion of tourism in our northern areas which are breathtaking to behold.

Also read: Pakistani photo wins first place in Wiki Loves Earth contest 2015

Let’s be realistic. These attractions are created to serve the public, not to draw in tourists. Yes, modernising our northern areas will make them more attractive for visitors from overseas, but foreigners at the moment are keeping away, mainly because of security issues.

Moreover, modernising our northern areas will not affect the life of young city dwellers in Islamabad, Lahore, and Rawalpindi looking for immediate gratification that a theme park would provide.

The most vocal complaints over the Lahore park are coming from affluent Pakistanis who can visit Dubai, Sri Lanka, Thailand or travel to Europe or the United States frequently. Well, this theme park is probably not being built for them anyway.

Pakistan comfortably boasts its share of private country clubs, theme parks and sports clubs, but the majority of these are too expensive for the average Pakistani to afford. Someone with a membership to a theme park told me he was glad it was expensive as it kept the ‘riffraff out’. The memberships here cost several thousand a month, while the initial fee stands on average at over Rs500,000.

This sort of elitism has started to affect our malls as well. Centaurus Mall in Islamabad introduced an entrance fee to shield itself from ‘Pindi boys’.

Also read: Islamabad's phobia of Pindi boys

On the other hand, public theme parks in Pakistan — affordable to middle class citizens — are disorganised, unhygienic, lack security and offer facilities that pale in comparison to private theme parks.

Judging by its record of the Metrobus project, we can only hope that the Punjab government is going to ensure that this private theme park is accessible to everyone.

Does the average citizen not deserve the same degree of entertainment as the affluent?

However, I am admittedly concerned about the company putting this together. Details on the Golden Bean Industry Group are difficult to find on the Internet. The other theme parks they have built in China, such as the Fantasy Park of Changchun city and Jiangnan Park of Jilin City, have little presence online, which is rare in this day and age. The project will apparently be completed in less than two years.

At this point, safety is my biggest concern. And with a track record of poor maintenance in projects across the country, we should stand firm, make sure our safety is taken into account and refuse to accept any more preventable deaths.

Opinion

Capacity for cruelty
04 Aug 2021

Capacity for cruelty

Those who believe in the human capacity to eschew cruelty are believed to be stupid and naïve.
Education crisis
Updated 04 Aug 2021

Education crisis

It is imperative to avoid measures that could further dent an already weak and vulnerable school system.
Off the planet
04 Aug 2021

Off the planet

Billionaires are yet to match the accomplishments of 60 years ago.
Films and reality
03 Aug 2021

Films and reality

It is hard to remember if films ever glamorised the relationship between first cousins.

Editorial

PML-N’s dilemma
Updated 04 Aug 2021

PML-N’s dilemma

The road ahead for the PML-N is going to be long and bumpy no matter which narrative it follows.
04 Aug 2021

Attacks on cops

AMIDST cautious optimism that Pakistan may be finally beginning to achieve success in bringing the number of polio...
04 Aug 2021

Myanmar about-face

SIX months into the coup that sent Myanmar’s hybrid civ-mil government packing, the generals have made their...
03 Aug 2021

Changing GB’s status

THE government’s plans to accord a provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan are progressing steadily and...
Taliban assault
03 Aug 2021

Taliban assault

Intra-Afghan peace talks should be promoted, but the global community must be ready for the imminent collapse of the Afghan state.
03 Aug 2021

Cancelling Aurat March

THE cancellation of Aurat March Faisalabad is exactly one of those ‘isolated incidents’ which, when viewed...