Lahoris don’t care about their trees

There is an Urdu verse that argues for enterprise and optimism, it promises traveller thousands of shady trees on the way. For our folk who walk, the shade of a tree along the path lets them pause and cool down a bit before resuming their journey. It is only in extreme weather like ours that one may fully appreciate what blessing tree shade is. In fact, where there is abundant tree cover, the summer does not get so hot. Cutting trees causes the climate of a region to change. But such arguments are lost on our city officials. If they cannot find another excuse to uproot trees they justify it by citing a need for widening the roads. And thus a merciless  cutting of trees goes on and on.
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DISMANTLING OUR OXYGEN FACTORIES

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by Intezar Hussain

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Note for WoP readers: Here now is another post again on our dwindling forests and trees which for centuries have dotted our urban and rural landscapes with fresh green foliage and cool shades in summer. The writer Intezar Hussain has a very valid point. Its stupid of these city fathers and the so called landscape experts who have no other solution to over ever growing traffic by cutting these centuries old trees and thus depriving the citizens of a normal, fresh and healthy ambience to stroll or drive in the city.

Then this idea of planting palm or date trees in the cities like Lahore or the motorways where right in the middle lane [the Pindi Bhattian-Faisalabad track has lots of such date/palm trees]. Not only do they require a dry climate, sandy soil but also flourish in the desert like surroundings as we have in our southern Punjab districts like Multan, Muzaffargarh, Sukkur and the surrounding areas in the Sindh province and district of Dera Ismail khan in KPK province. To expect the climate of these sandy desert terrains to prevail in urban Lahore or along the Pindi Bhattian Faisalbad Mororway is like sighting moon at noon.

Then come also the aesthetics. The people who have absolutely no idea of what landscaping is, design our landscape as if putting in plants from different other areas and countries would prove their horticultural expertise to us but in fact its exactly opposite the case. To such wizards of our landscaping ‘genius’ Intezar Hussain gives an apt reply: Lahore is Lahore, not Dubai or Japan. Neither is the area on PB-FSD Motorway anything else except Pindi Bhattian and Fisalabad.

This makes me recall the time when Lahore’s main boulevard was being widened. It was said that this was necessary to accomodate the tremendously high rate of vehicles that ply on the boulevard. So the road was started to be widened. Before the boulevard was not widended it had in its middle beautiful shrubs and flowers and after Liberty Chowk, there were lush green verges. Every time I drove along the main boulevard, I always had a refreshing feel. But then came the urge to widen the boulevard, which was widened of course, but the beautiful flowers and the shrubs were no more there. The lush green verges beyond Liberty had also gone. Instead they started planting those odd looking date palms surrounded by those ugly concrete structures which started sprouting like mushroons all along the main boulevard.

I do agree the road was to be widened, but then after it had been widened, couldn’t we plant similar type of shrubs and flowers which are home to the climate of Lahore and put trees and shrubs on Pindi Bhattian Motorway such trees and shrubs which find themselves at home in the climte that prevails in the area.

And to quote Intezar Hussain: In the lands and climates where it grows naturally, a date palm is lovely. If Lahore’s innovative gardeners are so keen on it they might as well arrange for the right soil. Once the thick shady trees in the city have all been uprooted the place will automatically turn into a veritable desert. But that may take a while.

The authorities apparently cannot understand why the trees here are so leafy and so rich in shade. The straightforward thing to do of course is to cut whatever trees are left standing, but there are still people who object to that. It is to avoid such noises that they have to propose plans that give the impression that the city is just getting new kinds of trees.

One remembers a senior city official who visited Japan some decades ago and on his return thought of uprooting the tall thick trees at Gol Bagh in whose shade Lahoris used to relax in the summer and replace them with some experimental Japanese shrubs. Lahoris, of course, reacted strongly with some activists even taking out a rally and the plan was some how abandoned. But those are the things of the past. Presently Lahoris don’t seem to care what is happening with their city’s landscape and that’s more lamentable.

[Nayyar]

The Horticulture Authority tried to rid the city of all its shady trees and replace them with date palms. Lahoris watched quietly. In the end, it fell to the palms themselves to protest the initiative. The palms planted along the Circular Road, it has been reported, are wilting and dying.

Actually the genius who thought of depriving the city of its own trees and adorning it with desert trees should also have imported a little desert. Trees, after all, grow from soil and are best nurtured in the climates associated with their native lands.

LAHORE IS LAHORE: NOT DUBAI OR JAPAN

In the lands and climates where it grows naturally, a date palm is lovely. If Lahore’s innovative gardeners are so keen on it they might as well arrange for the right soil. Once the thick shady trees in the city have all been uprooted the place will automatically turn into a veritable desert. But that may take a while.

The authorities apparently cannot understand why the trees here are so leafy and so rich in shade. The straightforward thing to do of course is to cut whatever trees are left standing, but there are still people who object to that. It is to avoid such noises that they have to propose plans that give the impression that the city is just getting new kinds of trees.

One remembers a senior city official who visited Japan some decades ago and on his return thought of uprooting the tall thick trees at Gol Bagh in whose shade Lahoris used to relax in the summer and replace them with some experimental Japanese shrubs. Lahoris, of course, reacted strongly with some activists even taking out a rally and the plan was somehow abandoned.

But activities hostile to the trees continue on one pretext or the other.

CLASS DIVIDE AND THE SEARCH FOR SHADE

I am reminded here of an Urdu verse arguing for enterprise and optimism, that promises the traveller thousands of shady trees on the way. The reference is so clearly to lands like our own where summers linger long and the sun is totally unsparing.

Nowadays of course we have railways and aeroplanes but rural folk still rely on camels and bullock carts. Some brave folk even walk. The shade of a tree along their path lets them pause and cool down a bit before resuming their journey. It is only in extreme weather like ours that one may fully appreciate what blessing tree shade is. In fact, where there is abundant tree cover, the summer does not get so hot. Cutting trees causes the climate of a region to change. The environmentalists therefore consider the trees important.

But such arguments are lost on our city officials. If they cannot find another excuse to uproot trees they justify it by citing a need for widening the roads.

WHERE ARE OUR TREE HUGGERS?

The bureaucratic mindset apart, there are business interests to reckon with. Some of the development planning inevitably stems from commercial interests. There needs to be awareness among citizens therefore of the problems such plans cause. Not long ago there was a plan in India  to cut a large number of trees – the logging industry have there interests to watch. The citizens responded with a tree-hugging movement. The tree-huggers vowed to protect the trees or die trying. That was how they saved their trees.

One does hear once in a while that some group in Lahore is taking up the cause. Citizens however are not quite aware of what the trees mean for the city. No such movement therefore is as effective as it needs to be.

*Translated from Urdu

[Please also SEE this post by Nazia Iftikhar which she put up on her blog around 2010]

http://naziaiftikhar.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/planting-palm-trees-in-pakistanan-unsuitable-political-effort/

Related Posts:

1. Trees and Us 2. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 3. Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s Biodiversity 4. Muhammad (S.A.W.W), A Pioneer of Environment
Intezar Hussain is an eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.
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Published in: on 03/06/2012 at 10:59 pm  Comments (17)  
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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The authorities apparently cannot understand why the trees here are so leafy and so rich in shade. The straight forward thing to do of course is to cut whatever trees are left standing, but there are still people who object to that.
    I am trying to convince people on same principles of leafy and shady trees for Punjab culture that Punjab is not in need of date, palm and pine tree planting. It is contrary to soil and climate requirement of terrain to plan such unshaded trees here.
    If you go to past history of Lahore even during British times such wide and shady leaf trees were planted here, particularly on Mall Road, Lawrence Gardens, along River Ravi and even in Lahore Railway areas which had such beautiful local trees, and which were cut in the name of experimentation there. BUT THE REAL STORY IS GREED OF EX ADMINISTRATORS OF LAHORE IN THE NAME OF DEVELOPMENT.

  2. […] 1.Lahoris don’t care about their trees  2. Trees and Us 3. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 4. Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s Biodiversity 5.  Muhammad (S.A.W.W), A Pioneer of Environment […]

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  16. […] and Us 2. Lahoris don’t care about their trees 3. Trees […]

  17. […] 1.Lahoris don’t care about their trees  2. Trees and Us 3. My beautiful Pakistan, the land of Balochistan 4. Birds of Lahore – Sustainers of City’s Biodiversity 5.  Muhammad (S.A.W.W), A Pioneer of Environment […]


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