Capital’s expansion projects silently killing environment



ISLAMABAD: The beautiful Islamabad faces an existential crisis as the rampant increase in population during past two decades mainly due to inter-country migration, unbridled development of brick-and-mortar infrastructural projects, cutting of thousands of trees and rising number of commuters are steadily deteriorating its environment.

A single incident speaks volumes about the interest and bent of city managers when it comes to protecting the environment.

During October last year, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in order to expand Ataturk Avenue in Red Zone, near prime ministers’ office, mowed down hundreds of trees in less than 24 hours.  This practice of mowing down trees to expand and rehabilitate service roads in relatively new sectors has long become a norm.

Started back in 2016 and still far from completion, the expansion of Islamabad Expressway – a 25- kilometre long signal free road-that starts from Zero Point and connects the capital with Rawat – has caused a huge impact on the environment as the commuters only use the highway. The first phase of the project, from Zero Point to Faizabad, alone came at a cost of hundreds of trees that were cut down during the project.

The expansion of road that connects Sectors F-10 and G-10 with Sectors E-11 and E-12, the newly constructed E-11, D-12 service road and mushrooming of encroachments along Kashmir Highway have eaten the green belts and patches of greenery.

The present modus operandi of doing construction around the capital by CDA is haphazard and pays little to no heed to environmental concerns, health hazards and vanishing of capital’s signature greenery.

It is pertinent to mention here that the shrinking number of trees in Islamabad is giving way to low quality, polluted air that citizens are breathing.

According to a Reuters report, the federal capital each year had about 5,000 to 8,000 patients at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) seeking treatment for respiratory problems. That figure was around 400 to 500 a decade-and-a-half ago.

While talking to Pakistan Today, Sarmad Wahidi, a resident of D-12, said that although they welcome the expansion of E-11, D-12 road, the CDA should ensure that environment of the capital is given utmost care and importance. Every project that adversely affects the environment should be banned and proper mechanisms and regulations must be implemented in letter and spirit, he added.

CDA, each year during the Spring Tree Plantation Campaign plants over half a million saplings all over the city. According to official figures, more than half of these planted saplings grow into trees.