A SINDH minister recently said that the provincial government should be allowed to regularise buildings constructed on amenity plots. In this regard, the provincial government has decided to bring an ordinance to regularise illegal housing units and stop an anti-encroachment drive based on the Supreme Court’s orders.
This only shows the non-serious and myopic vision of the rulers. How can they rob the city of its green spaces? Karachi — already one of the most populated cities in the world — is suffering from rapid and unplanned urbanisation, facing an array of problems, like flash floods and global warming.
The World Bank says the city’s infrastructure is “highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters”, whereas the 2019 Global Liveability Index ranks it among the bottom 10 cities in the world in terms of liveability.
The amenity plots that the minister wants to get regularised are meant for parks and playgrounds. And it is common knowledge that such natural spaces absorb storm water better than the concrete-made sewer and drainage ditches.
Besides, an abundance of trees in such areas reduces the urban heat island effect created due to a wide expanse of flat, dark surfaces made of asphalt and concrete.
A study conducted by the American Forests organisation revealed that in Atlanta, trees remove 19 million pounds of pollutants each year, providing a service valued at $47 million.
Furthermore, it is observed that parks reduce stress and are good for one’s mental and physical health. Being outside and spending some time with Mother Nature are crucial for the healthy development of children.
Those who have access to parks experience better emotional stability and improved mental health. Parks also preserve the local ecosystem by providing a space to many birds and animals displaced by urban sprawl.
Karachi’s amenity plots were allotted to the land-owning agencies under the public trust doctrine, aimed at preserving certain natural resources for the benefit of the public and our future generations.
However, the trust was betrayed when the custodians of the land kept silent and wilfully allowed the misuse of public spaces.
These plunderers of parks and playgrounds built commercial ventures, like clubs, private educational institutions, supermarkets and even multi-storied buildings to be sold at a profit. All these ventures helped the encroachers earn a fortune, as the land was grabbed almost free of cost.
By imposing this land regularisation ordinance, the government will be pushing Karachi further towards the brink of collapse, and endangering the health and wellbeing of its people. Besides, passing such laws would amount to forcibly legalising the usurpation of the rights of the citizens.
Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2021