Karachi has been deprived of some 47,000 fully grown trees in the past five years owing to construction of different ill-planned civic projects, while the relevant government agencies contradicting their commitment have not conducted any plantation drive to mitigate the resultant alarming situation.
The lessening greenery in the city has gravely endangered the ecological balance as well as increased environmental pollution, caused harmful variations in the climatic conditions and contributed to the gradual rise in the mercury level.
The state of environment in the city has been turning from bad to worse due to the constant felling of trees, said National Forum for Environment & Health (NFEH) President Muhammad Naeem Qureshi in a statement issued on Wednesday.
He said the NFEH had conducted an informal survey to estimate the number of uprooted trees due to construction of major development projects in the city.
According to this survey, the 26km portion from Surjani Town to Gurumandir was deprived of 17,000 trees in the past one year due to construction of the Green Line section of the Karachi Metrobus rapid transit network.
Similarly, the area between Hassan Square and Safoora Chowrangi was deprived of 12,000 trees due to the project for expansion and rebuilding of University Road.
Some 4,000 more trees were sacrificed to the projects for expansion of Super Highway and National Highway, while 1,200 trees were also cut down to expand the makeshift market for sacrificial animals near Super Highway.
Some 13,000 trees were chopped down due to different civic projects in the past five years in the areas of Manghopir, North Nazimabad, Federal B Area, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Shaheed-e-Millat Road, Clifton, Tariq Road, DHA, Bahadurabad, PECHS, Surjani Town, Scheme-33, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Gulshan-e-Hadeed and other major residential areas.
The NFEH president said staff of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, district municipal corporations and cantonment boards had brazenly participated in the unchecked and constant tree cutting drives but they never faced any penal action as prescribed under the relevant laws.
The trees uprooted during the recent development drives across the city included that of Neem, Peepal, Tamarind, Gulmohar, Amaltas, Moringa and other important species of flowering, fruit and other beneficial trees.
He recalled the explicit directives issued in the recent past by the Karachi commissioner that cutting down trees was a cognisable offence, as wherever such an action became inevitable, the relevant civic agencies or construction companies were bound under the law to plant the uprooted trees again at the nearest feasible location.
He said the survey conducted by the NFEH had revealed that the uprooted fully grown trees could easily be planted at any nearby site but it could not be done apparently due to lack of planning and indifference of the relevant government agencies.
He added that executioners of major civic transportation schemes such as the Green Line and Orange Line sections did not come up with any plan to conduct mandatory plantation drives to mitigate the compromised environmental conditions caused due to construction of such projects.
Neither did the executing agencies of the mass transit schemes provide any detailed plans to conduct the required plantation drive despite repeatedly being contacted by the relevant civil society organisations, including the NFEH.
Qureshi said the previous plantation drive conducted by the civic agencies did not promote plantation of locally available and environmental friendly species of plants that could also complement the campaign to beautify the city.
Instead, anti-environment plants such as Conocarpus erectus, commonly called buttonwood or button mangrove, were planted, which contributed to aggravating allergies in several ailing citizens and did not help lessen the harsh weather conditions prevailing in summers, he added.
He said it was a pitiful situation that no space was reserved for tree plantations where new mega construction projects were being built in the city.
The parks built and plantation drives conducted during the previous regimes of the city district government in Karachi had also been ruined due to neglect of the authorities concerned, he added.
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