ISLAMABAD: Business community leaders criticised extensive tree felling, the reduction in plantation and increasing encroachments in Islamabad.

“Being citizens of Islamabad, we request civil society organisations and those people who are in favour of preserving Islamabad’s environment to raise their voices,” All Pakistan Anjuman-i-Tajiran President Ajmal Baloch said on Tuesday.

Mr Baloch was speaking to the media along with other business community members such as Traders Action Committee Islamabad Secretary General Khalid Mehmood Chaudhry and the president of the G-10/4 market union Zafar Iqbal Gujjar.

Referring to the old saying ‘Rome was not built in a day’, he said: “Similarly, Karachi did not rot in a day and the kind of environmental pollution we have in Lahore or Faisalabad are all the result of years of neglect and mismanagement by authorities over time.”

The speakers said Islamabad was a beautiful green city with official, commercial, industrial and residential units, but recent developments were the first step to its decay.

Mr Baloch said that the removal of a zoo from the city was “not acceptable” to residents, adding that animals were facing the brunt of official carelessness and corruption.

The speakers said residents had the right to know what would happen to the Marghazar Zoo’s land and whether a new zoo would be established in the city.

They said they feared the zoo’s land would be used for another purpose by the Ministry of Climate Change, Capital Development Authority (CDA), Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) or NGOs in the same of protecting the environment, adding that the dispute that lead to the deaths of zoo animals was caused by a tug-of-war between various departments.

Mr Chaudhry asked CDA chairman and Islamabad chief commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed to ensure that the zoo’s land is not used for any purpose other than an animal park.

Traders have also demanded that the CDA and MCI control increasing encroachment in Islamabad’s markets and open spaces, and even by religious institutions.

Mr Baloch said it was unfortunate that development work was last seen during the tenure of former CDA chairman Kamran Lashari and due to corruption and apathy nothing substantial has been done in the last 12 years, including repairs in various markets. He added that “the quality of repair work has significantly declined” as well.

Traders added that in recent years, despite the government’s 10 Billion Tree plantation programme, greenery in the capital is declining and new plantation is lower than it was decades ago.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2020

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