ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan that about 7,000 paper mulberry trees have been removed from Fatima Jinnah Park recently.

The civic body placed this information before the apex court in a report which will be taken up on Monday (today).

“Approximately 7,000 trees classified as paper mulberry were removed from different patches and pockets of 55 acres area labelled as recreation and picnic fields in Fatima Jinnah, F-9 Park. Its planning was started in 2020 by constituting the environmental committee including representation of Pak-EPA for consultation,” stated the CDA report.

It claimed that in entire Islamabad, the densest population of mulberry trees exited in Fatima Jinnah. The CDA had already planted 15,000 trees [of various species] last month in the park and by mid-April this year the new plantation would reach the figure of 36,000, said the report.

CDA report says plantation of different species in park underway, 36,000 saplings to be planted by mid-April

“Through proper contract, we removed paper mulberry trees only, therefore, we have submitted our report to honorable Supreme Court,” said an official of the CDA, adding paper mulberry trees were the source of allergy and parliament’s standing committees and other forums had been directing the CDA for years to remove such trees in Islamabad.

He said only paper mulberry were removed and no other tree was chopped off, stating that in the area where paper mulberry existed other species can’t survive.

Another official, however, said: “If only paper mulberry trees were removed after adopting proper procedure, the CDA should be encouraged by the apex court and this exercise should be extended to other parts of the city as well. But if other trees such as sheesham were felled in F-9 Park under the pretext of paper mulberry removal, action should be taken against the CDA officials,” he said.

The Supreme Court in a suo motu case took notice of tree-cutting in F-9 Park recently and on Tuesday restrained the CDA from cutting trees in the park until the next date of hearing.

The apex court had directed the CDA for furnishing a report about the matter. The court had taken notice on a note put up by its registrar, stating: “It has been reported that a larger number of trees have been cut and there is a systematic deforestation taking place in the Fatima Jinnah Park, F-9. Citizens are complaining that the trees have been cut on the directions of CDA and that the Supreme Court should intervene to prevent this valuable resource of the citizens from being destroyed.”

The CDA report stated that the park’s short and long term objectives were connected to replanting or reforestation of the area under removal of vegetation.

“These initiatives include improving the park’s aesthetic appeal and reestablishing a native plant community. Prior to removing the species of B. apyrifera and groundcover vegetation from designated park areas, a replanting plan has been created with a map that contains all of the features that are anticipated to be revised,” read the report.

It said the thinning of vegetation by removing B. apyrifera from specified locations presented a spectacular view of the topographic features; they become more visible in the park. The visual aesthetic qualities of the park’s landscape and scenic beauty have been considered positively keeping the potential interest of the visitors into consideration. A few themed parks and arboretum (trees) pavilions have been designed in order to improve the beauty of the replanted region.

The report said F-9 Park spreads over 760 acres of which 240 acres was already developed whereas the remaining was yet to be developed as per approved conceptual plan. In 1992, the park was inaugurated and planned as a public park where there are playgrounds, artificial waterfalls, children’s play zones, amphitheaters and other entertainment areas.

The report said paper mulberry was densely planted in 1970s as it was a fast-growing invasive species. Islamabad was classified as a barren land where there was no extensive tree cover available and therefore the plantation was carried out through aerial spraying of seeds.

It said this park was planned to be the source of air quality improvement as a carbon sink for the emissions of vehicle moving not only all sides of roads of the park but also a place within the capital city enriched with fresh air for commuters.

The park is daily used by thousands of citizens for evening walk. Whereas due to pollen allergy from paper mulberry, the number of visitors decreased in the spring season as they were compelled to stay indoors.

With prior consultation with EPA from time-to-time, a sizable number of paper mulberry trees have been removed in the residential sectors gradually so that the green character of the capital is not lost abruptly.

However, it is still found in abundance in Shakarparian, Rawal Lake area and in the foothills of Margalla Hills National Park.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2024

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