ISLAMABAD: The largest park in the federal capital, which is spread over an entire sector and boasts scenic views of the Margalla Hills, is slowly deteriorating due to lack of maintenance.
The Fatima Jinnah Park, which takes up all of F-9, was upgraded during the tenure of former Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman Kamran Lashari at the cost of millions of rupees. It now boasts overgrowth, exposed electric wires, dried up ponds and those with dirty water, unused fountains and dirt paths with stones jutting out due to rain taking away the soil.
Of the total 759 acres that the park is spread over, only 240 acres is developed and the rest is abandoned.
Will fund-less MCI be able to save the once scenic Fatima Jinnah Park from declining further?
The park was under the administrative control of the CDA and has been handed over to the fund-less Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) after the formation of the local government.
The MCI’s Park and Environment Wing, which has thousands of employees, is not up keeping the once lush and beautiful park.
Sources said some 100 lower staff has been deployed to look after the park. These staff members can be seen soaking up the sun, gossiping on benches and loitering around but do not do much.
Other than one or two women employees, the staff members do not even pick up the trash left behind by picnickers or clean up mess left behind by dog walkers.
The main track is the only one which gets swept up routinely.
However, even the side track which runs parallel to the main track, has been washed clean of the jogging-friendly small gravel by the rain and is now littered with bigger stones.
The smaller tracks, which are more natural, are also littered with larger stones.
The visitor’s bathrooms were made such that they were covered by ground and grass, so that they used to look like little pixie huts. The grass on top has now grown so wild that the toilets are hard to spot.
Many beautiful ponds and fountains, complete with statues, were installed in the park which are now filled with filthy and stagnant water.
The gazebos and a large wooden building lay abandoned and a dirty nullah runs in the middle of the park, causing foul smell in the scenic park.
Due to the large unattended area and lack of maintenance of the plants in the facility, a visitor was raped by the park’s own security guards a few months ago. There is not much security in the park, save for a police Datsun which drives by on the main track only. The security gates installed outside the children’s park do not work either.
“The park could be so beautiful but the dried up ponds and the overgrowth gives it an abandoned look,” said Ikhlaq Ahmed, a visitor.
Though some lamp posts have now been added to many of the tracks, a significant portion of the park is still dark at night.
Director Parks Ghizwan Shamshad said this is due to a limited budget and that efforts are being made to improve the park.
“I have 155 parks under my supervision and only four tractors. You can guess for yourself how we manage,” he said.
The Fatima Jinnah Park also houses the Islamabad Citizen Club which is yet to be made operational. Spread over 20 acres, the club was declared illegal by the Supreme Court in 2010 when it was near completion. The apex court has said it was opposing clubs which only serve the elites.
It said that with the approval of the federal government, the CDA could utilise the building and other facilities for a public welfare project such as an educational institution.
Worth over Rs1.9 billion, the club project has been completed but is not operational yet. The club was also given under the administrative control of MCI and was inaugurated by Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz this year in April.
MCI changed the name of the club to the Metropolitan Project. The club has many facilities including a main lobby, atrium, cigar lounge, lounge area, pantry, preparation and main kitchens, washrooms, restaurants, indoor pools, electrical and mechanical rooms, gym etc.
Chief Metropolitan Officer Syed Najaf Iqbal said the MCI has been facing financial issues which is why the park’s condition is not “up to the mark”.
He added that he is in talks with multinational and national companies for uplifting the park under corporate social responsibility.
About the non-operational club, Mr Iqbal said MCI will soon be contacting a consultant for suggested uses for the building.
“The general public will be given preference whatever we decide,” he said, adding that the corporation is also thinking about turning unutilised land of the park into orchards and nurseries.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018