It seems that the growing population of people and cars in the capital have left little space for the trees, with the latter sacrificed for the needs of the former.
This was justified by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in a report submitted before the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a suo moto notice on encroachment in the Margalla Hills National Park.
In the report, the CDA stated that the capital was facing a host of social and environmental issues owing to growth in population and internal migration. The census earlier this year discovered that Islamabad’s population had more than doubled over the past 20 years, from 805,235 in 1999 to 2.07 million in 2017.
This growth has corresponded with an increase in the number of vehicles in the capital — despite the advent of the Metro Bus — which had put immense pressure on the existing road network and infrastructure of the capital. The civic agency noted that the high volume of traffic was leading to severe congestion and bottlenecks on different thoroughfares of the city.
“A feasibility study was conducted to assess the existing vehicle usage of Embassy Road which showed that around 2,500 vehicles per day are being handled by this road resulting in traffic congestion in the area,” the report said, noting that traffic would only increase on the road since a number of government offices are located in the area and is the only alternate road if Constitution Avenue is closed.
In this regard, the CDA said that it was considering turning the Ataturk Avenue (west) from Khyaban—e—Suharwardy to Khayaban—e—Iqbal into a dual track carriageway. With the project part of the approved master plan, they hoped that the project would help manage the increased traffic volume in a more professional way, apart from improving the road’s surface.
The civic body added that a survey had been conducted by the Environment Wing of CDA to reassess the exact number trees which will be affected by the project.
“A total 245 trees were identified by CDA’s Environment Wing which will be affected by the daulisation work against the approved component of 291 trees,” the CDA said while quoting the EIA report.
It added that so far, 190 trees have been cut by the environment wing along Khayaban-Suharwardy and Jinnah Avenue.
However, CDA said that all the cut trees will be ‘compensated for’ as per the approved mitigation plan charted by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. For the 245 trees to be cut, as many as 2,500 trees — 10 times as many — will be planted. In this regard, CDA said that they had so far planted 400 Chir Pine trees along the greenbelt on Embassy Road. The remaining trees, the civic body said, would be planted next spring.
The CDA told the court that the project would cost around Rs355.25 million — estimates calculated by the body’s engineering wing.
The lowest bid was offered by Zareef Khan Hussainzai & Brothers worth Rs235.28 million with their quoted rates of 23. 94 per cent below NIT rates. “The contract of tree cutting was awarded through an open auction, after advertising it in the national press,” the report said.
The bid was been accepted on August 18 and civil work of cutting the trees started on October 18.
The CDA also told the court that the civic body’s Environment Director General Sheikh Muhammad Suleman has been suspended for his “failure in [stopping] encroachment in Margala Hills National Park.”
“Likewise, action has also taken against two directors. An FIR has also been lodged against the sponsor of an illegal housing scheme by the name of North Ridge.”