PESHAWAR: Members of the civil society groups have called for preparing a proper strategy to protect Peshawar from the unsustainable model of development that is increasing environmental hazards.
They were attending a seminar hosted by the Environmental Science Department of the University of Peshawar titled “Transformation of Cities: From Development to Degradation.” The event was sponsored by the University of Peshawar and Environmental Law Students from the Law College.
The civil society members from the Institute of Architects of Pakistan, De Las Gul, Frontier Heritage Trust, Gandhara Hindko Board and others deplored the development process in Peshawar, which was being carried out without caring for the environmental hazards. They said this flawed development needed to be evaluated.
Feryal Ali Gauhar, a noted social worker, gave a brief presentation of Lahore Bachao Tehrik movement under which citizens comprising civil society members, environmentalists, legal experts and ordinary people took the government to task for expansion of the Lahore Canal Road and cutting down of thousands of trees in the process.
“We at Lahore Bachao Tehrik can help the civil society of Peshawar draft a petition to the courts about the violation of the environment laws,” she stated. “You do not need a lot of people to do this, but sensitizing people on the street to this lop-sided, “salubrious” kind of development is something you will have to do once you have a clear vision of what Peshawar should look and feel like in terms of sustainability and identity of South Asia’s oldest living city,” she explained.
Feryal Gohar said the Lahore Bachao Tehrik stood up to the Punjab government. “We have presented our case recently to the committee constituted to make recommendations to the Supreme Court as per the instructions of chief justice of Pakistan,” she added.
Dr Salahuddin from the Gandhara Hindko Board deplored that Peshawar’s cultural heritage was being eliminated in the name of widening of roads and reducing traffic congestion. He said Peshawar’s historic gardens and trees and now even a few green belts were not being spared in the mad race for modernity and development.
He said the citizens of Peshawar had the right to question this lopsided policy, which was leading to phase-wise destruction of the cultural landmarks. He lamented that Shahi Bagh, Wazir Bagh, Pardah Bagh and others important sites were in a shambles.
Dr Salahuddin said it was deplorable that the government departments were involved in the uglification of the city. Citing a failed bid to auction a 200-year old banyan tree in Hashtnagri recently for Rs15,000, he said action should have been be taken against all those who tried to deprive the city of this ancient landmark. “How sad that a tree which grows in 200 years is felled instantly,” he said while calling for protection of trees and green belts in the city as these were the lungs of the earth. Despite invitation by the organisers, none from the Peshawar Development Authority, Environmental Protection Agency or other government departments attended the seminar.