Sunday June 16, 2024

We are killing Palm trees!

By Mobarik A. Virk
May 27, 2023

Islamabad:Once upon a time there was a very influential politician from some area in Jhang district. In addition to being influential, he was quite popular and highly respected among people of his area.

After winning in one general elections, he became the Federal Interior Minister. And when he was in office, somebody in the Capital Development Authority (CDA) came up with a unique idea to bring big, well grown ‘date palm’ trees and plant those in the median of Jinnah Avenue and in some other part of the federal capital.

The experiment failed! Well, this is correct that there are some clumps of palm trees found in some parts of Islamabad, like a few in a nullah in Sector G-7/1, a cluster somewhere in Margalla hills and may be a few growing somewhere in Sector D-12 probably.

However, these ‘date palm’ trees obviously were not a suitable selection for planting in Islamabad and soon those withered. Rotting stumps of some of those trees could still be found somewhere in the federal capital.

First experiment of introducing other than indigenous tree species was done when ‘Paper Mulberry’ trees were introduced back in early 1960s. The experiment proved almost fatal as in the early 1990s it was established that this specie of tree was the biggest source of pollen allergy, even causing a number of deaths besides making life of those suffering from any type of respiratory or lung disorder.

The then Chairman of the CDA, Faridud Din Ahmed and the then Director-General (Environment), Rashid Randhawa, after a full public debate agreed to root out the menace of ‘Paper Mulberry’ gradually and methodically from urban sectors in the first phase and later expanding it to the rural areas.

The second experiment of introducing a new specie of trees in the plains of Federal Capital was done, most probably in 1973 or 1974 when the then Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto himself planted a ‘Pine’ tree in the green belt opposite State Bank flats in Sector G-7/1.

That was a big success and still is but it was painful to watch quite a number of those Pine trees planted in 1973 or 74 being chopped down to build a connecting bridge between Sector G-7/1 and G-8/4.

The exercise with the Pine trees was repeated in early 1990s also as a result of which we still enjoy watching and majestic Pine trees and breath Pine-scented air while driving or walking up and down Jinnah Avenue. But a recent up and down trip by GT (Grand Trunk) Road to Gujranwala from Islamabad reminded me of the experiment with the Date Palm trees in Islamabad a couple of decades ago.

The most alarming thing was the mushroom growth of ‘Housing Societies’ on both sides of the GT Road, especially beyond Jhelum river bridge because thousands and thousands of acres of cultivable land is soon will turn into jungle of concrete and mortar. However, there are a few coming up before Jhelum as well, which is even more surprising.

Not only it hurts to watch all this agricultural land being turned into housing societies but even more disappointing aspect was transportation of tall, fully-grown Date Palm trees by most of these societies who are trying to plant and grow them in soil, which they do not belong to! We fail to understand as to what fascination these housing societies have with these ‘Date Palm’ trees! These will die, as we watched them die in Islamabad a couple of decades ago.