PESHAWAR: A senior environmentalist has urged the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) to get friendly with the environment by preferring large shady and green trees to decorative species to adorn the cityscape during the ongoing plantation campaign.
“The PDA tree plantation initiative is a good one where local community members, representatives and schools have been involved in this activity. However, there are few issues that deserve an informed debate,” argued Dr Adil Zareef while commenting on the recently launched drive. He said historically, Peshawar was known as a city of flowers and gardens. Since Mughal, Durrani and British period the region was known for fragrance and huge shady boulevards, he added.
“The post-independence images of Peshawar show a peaceful and shady city until the 1970s when rapid development and lack of sensitivity by administrators, destroyed huge heritage trees inside the walled city and outskirts,” pointed out Adil Zareef. He said the Gandhara period huge Peepal tree, near Shah Ji ki Dheri was considered a place of reverence and prayers for Buddhist monks and travellers from Japan, Korea as the place was recorded in Buddhist Holy Scriptures 2000 years. The environmentalist lamented that the wanton destruction of shared history and heritage symbols have ever since become synonymous with modernity, though developed nations take pride for their past heritage and preserve it religiously.
Adil Zareef said like crumbling heritage sites, old indigenous trees have also become a prey to vested interest like timber mafia and development departments that consider removing old trees is a blind policy before any project is initiated. He said the PDA ignored the protests by the civil society and experts not to destroy green belts to accommodate the Bus Rapid Transit route in the city.
“Mature trees absorb excess rainwater and restore the depleted deep water aquifers. Besides, paving of drains by contractors, the removal of old trees in thousands resulted in heavy flooding during recent rainfall, making both vehicular and pedestrian traffic a hazard,” argued the environmentalist. He said trees were important components of biodiversity being natural purifiers of air by providing oxygen and reducing toxic air pollution levels, besides, controlling heat and humidity. It is the moral responsibility for policymakers, administrators, judiciary and all sections of the society to play their role in the preservation of a healthy environment for the wellbeing of its citizens and future generation and halt unsustainable and predatory development.
Adil Zareef said climate change threat is a serious one. “The climate change threatens to make our cities hot by many degrees; therefore a policy on increasing urban and rural green belts can ensure a greener, cleaner and healthier future,” he said.