A MOTORCYCLIST rides past a majestic banyan tree. Mayor Murtaza Wahab (right) hands a notification to young Aneeqa declaring the trees along Amir Khusro Road protected heritage.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A MOTORCYCLIST rides past a majestic banyan tree. Mayor Murtaza Wahab (right) hands a notification to young Aneeqa declaring the trees along Amir Khusro Road protected heritage.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The ancient banyan trees along Amir Khusro Road have been declared as protected green heritage thanks to a teenage girl named Aneeqa Bashir, who directed the attention of government authorities to them.

Seventeen-year-old Aneeqa laughs when asked if she should rather be nicknamed the “Greta Thunberg of Pakistan”. A student of Karachi American School (KAS), she has been commuting to school while taking the Amir Khusro Road since she was in nursery.

And while doing so she fell in love with the old banyan trees there with huge sprawling trunks and leaf cover always providing cool shade all along that particular portion of the road.

“I’ve counted 33 majestic banyan trees with a very commanding presence there. They provide so much tranquillity to the area,” Aneeqa tells Dawn.

 Aneeqa with one of her favourite banyan trees near her school. — Dawn
Aneeqa with one of her favourite banyan trees near her school. — Dawn

Asked how she managed the challenging task of saving the trees because it is not easy to get things done in government corridors, Aneeqa explained she had a bit of experience as well as guidance.

“I have worked with Marvi Mazhar, who has already pursued the heritage declaration of trees along Shahrah-i-Iran, Hatim Alvi Road in Old Clifton,” she said.

“I shared with her what I wished for the banyan trees around my school and Ms Mazhar suggested I approach Karachi Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab as he was the one who had facilitated her request, too.

“And when I did, I found him as passionate about the environment as myself. He was very receptive and educated me about so many of his other green initiatives as well,” said Aneeqa.

In continuation of his efforts towards a clean and green city, Barrister Wahab acted on the request from the youth activist and managed to get declared the banyan trees lining Amir Khusro Road as protected heritage.

The trees were declared protected green heritage through an administrative order issued from the office of the Commissioner of Karachi on July 25. “Any individual / organisation found harming these trees will be dealt with strictly in accordance with Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994,” it read.

The mayor’s call for green initiatives and his giving so much importance to preserving nature amidst urban development made young Aneeqa extremely happy.

Barrister Wahab told her what she also believed in so strongly, that Pakistan’s future lies in planting and maintaining green spaces.

The addition of the banyan trees to those previously declared protected green heritage on Shahrah-i-Iran and Hatim Alvi Road further solidified the mayor’s vision for a greener and more sustainable Karachi, which Aneeqa also wanted very much.

Banyan trees hold cultural and historical value, with their lateral branches historically providing shade to merchants along the famous Amir Khusro Road, named after the renowned poet and scholar.

Aneeqa already has her eye on the old banyan trees at Karachi Zoo. “I hope to create a mindset among the people here which see trees also as territory, which needs to be guarded. Trees are meant to be saved and not felled for industrial projects and other such things. Birds build nests in trees and they are also home to so many insects. They are a huge source of biodiversity,” she said.

This synergy between the government and concerned citizens like Aneeqa also paves the way for creating awareness about the crucial role of trees in shaping the nation’s future.

Now working on her next project, Aneeqa is spearheading a campaign for the implementation of the ‘Youth Environmental Responsibility Act’, a proposal she has drafted that seeks to nurture a culture of sustainability among Pakistan’s youth.

The Act calls for each student to be required to plant one tree as a prerequisite for graduation.

This strategic approach, with designated agroforestry zones and a focus on regional indigenous trees, ensures the preservation of vital ecosystems while fostering diverse and resilient environments.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

By-election trends
Updated 23 Apr, 2024

By-election trends

Unless the culture of violence and rigging is rooted out, the credibility of the electoral process in Pakistan will continue to remain under a cloud.
Privatising PIA
23 Apr, 2024

Privatising PIA

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb’s reaffirmation that the process of disinvestment of the loss-making national...
Suffering in captivity
23 Apr, 2024

Suffering in captivity

YET another animal — a lioness — is critically ill at the Karachi Zoo. The feline, emaciated and barely able to...
Not without reform
Updated 22 Apr, 2024

Not without reform

The problem with us is that our ruling elite is still trying to find a way around the tough reforms that will hit their privileges.
Raisi’s visit
22 Apr, 2024

Raisi’s visit

IRANIAN President Ebrahim Raisi, who begins his three-day trip to Pakistan today, will be visiting the country ...
Janus-faced
22 Apr, 2024

Janus-faced

THE US has done it again. While officially insisting it is committed to a peaceful resolution to the...