KARACHI: Even a particularly warm and sunny Sunday afternoon could not stop people from all walks of life to gather on Marriott Road to plant trees and shrubs there. The red clay pavement tiles led the way to the soon-to-be dense Miyawaki forest.

The lane, known as the ‘Denso Hall Rahguzar Landscaped Walking Street’, an initiative of the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, is no longer open for traffic. There are Makli tiles on either side of the lane with clay disks here and there that carry superimposed sketches of the 12 historic buildings, reminiscent of the Victorian era, that happen to be famous landmarks of this area. And there are trees growing in the middle.

The event on Sunday, organised by the Heritage Foundation in collaboration with Rotary Club Karachi (New Central) and StarLinks, was the third of its kind here. They have already planted two more stretches of trees before this, first by the Heritage Foundation last year and then by shopkeepers of the area in February this year. The shopkeepers are quite excited about it all despite earlier resistance. “They have taken complete ownership of their surroundings and have taken it on themselves to water and care for the plants and trees here,” said Shanaz Ramzi of StarLinks, the host for the event.

There will be a total of four urban forest stretches along the street. The project was initiated last year when in order to spread awareness about it the Heritage Foundation would hold street festivals.

Ramzi said that earlier, the buildings in the area were cleaned by the Heritage Foundation. “That was also when the people of this area were made aware of the buildings of historic and cultural importance. The Heritage Foundation also made sure that the wires and cables hanging overhead were removed so that the trees are not hindered by them. The wiring and connections will all be laid underground here,” she said, adding that the city government, especially the Karachi commissioner’s office, has really cooperated and supported their initiative.

About the clay tile pavements, she said that they have all been made by women, who used to be beggars in Makli. “They were trained by the Heritage Foundation, led by its founder Yasmeen Lari. The tiles have also been tested by laboratories in Switzerland and Italy and are at a par with such tiles abroad, if not better. They are both beautiful as well as durable. There has been no use of cement in joining them to create the pavements as well. It’s just clay, mud, limestone and sandstone,” she said, adding that about Rs10 million has gone into creating the pavements alone.

There were some 150 trees being planted in the third phase on Sunday. Even the compost being used for them was all organic. One could spot bamboo being used for the purpose.

About the trees being planted in the area, Shahzad Qureshi, of the well-known Urban Forest in Clifton, who was also present there, said that they were following the Miyawaki-style tree plantation in the street. “The style uses indigenous trees and shrubs that are planted in a particular way. “We are planting wild almond, desi mango, jamun, neem, Amaltas, Sukhchain, karhi pata and guava among others here,” he said.

The funding for the trees came from Zeeshan Habib, founder member of the Saturday Welfare Group, who offers his services wherever there are such initiatives happening in the city.

District Governor of Rotary Club (New Central) Dr Farhan Essa, the chief guest at the event, said that “Karachi is the business hub of Pakistan and it’s the duty its people to take care of the city and contribute to its beauty”.

The Heritage Foundation is looking to completely pedestrianise the street by Ramazan. It is expected that once this is done, this place will be just like the popular Covent Garden of London where people would set up stalls and roadside restaurants for others to enjoy the cool environment.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021

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