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Plan to beautify city

June 12, 2017

LET’S admit it: the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) today is not a patch upon what it used to be in the 1960s, at least in terms of being proactive. Though even in the past things, and it is evident, seldom turned out the way the corporation planned them.

On June 14, 1967 the KMC announced it would launch, what it called, a self-financing scheme to make the city beautiful. For the purpose, the chairman and vice chairman of the corporation on June 13 took an extensive tour of the city and selected the sites that were to be developed into ‘beauty spots’. The idea was to build ceremonial arches in different areas, and the areas selected for the purpose were Hardinge Bridge, Municipal Octroi Post on Drigh Road and on Mauripur Road where a bridge was being constructed. Sounds like a good, feasible idea. Did it work? Not sure.

One of the many ways to beautify any city is to grow trees. It can’t exactly be pinpointed as to when the authorities began to chop off the lovely sheltering trees that used to dot Karachi’s cityscape, but what can be said with surety is that in 1967 trees and plants were not at the bottom rung of the city administrators’ priority list. On June 12, the Agriculture Department of Karachi (yes, it used to have one) issued a statement claiming it was experimenting with growing pineapple plants in the city nurturing their shoots in flower pots to control the conditions, mainly soil acidity. To reach its goal, a number of shoots were brought from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by an assistant director of the department after undertaking a study tour. They had been kept under observation at a government nursery in Liaquatabad and were supposed to be shifted to bigger flowerpots once they fully grew. What a praiseworthy thing to do! The question to be asked, though, is: where are those pineapple plants?

Speaking of praiseworthy ideas, the city’s traffic police on June 15 launched a road safety drive. On the second day of the campaign, the police distributed handbills and delivered public lectures on road safety (isn’t that cute!) and ended the day with the screening of a documentary film in Nazimabad (Nazimabad was a trendy neighbourhood at the time). The campaign bore fruit in no time as more and more cars were now carrying on their rear bumpers stickers and posters highlighting traffic rules. The push for careful driving, by the way, was mainly concentrated on Bunder Road (now M. A. Jinnah Road), McLeod Road (now I. I. Chundrigar Road), PECHS, Nursery, Elphinstone Street (now Zaibunnisa Street), Saddar and Nazimabad.

One more campaign was in the news that week. It was to kill stray dogs in the Landhi and Korangi areas. An interesting story was reported on June 16: the people in both localities wanted to kill the dogs, but not all of them. They protested to the municipality against the campaign reasoning that some of the dogs should be left alive so that they could act as ‘watchdogs’ against ‘thieves and robbers’. The protest had followed escalation of the drive by the Landhi-Korangi Municipal Committee because in the past three days the municipality had killed 300 dogs in comparison to a total of 1,000 in the previous six months. According to an estimate, there were 100,000 stray dogs in Landhi and Korangi. Reacting to the situation, the committee spokesman said: “You can’t kill stray dogs and have them too.”

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2017