Islamabad - Ataturk Avenue explodes with purple jacarandas every year in May. These sacred trees were fifty years old. In the eighties, I would bicycle under that indigo canopy of heavenly flowers daily but couldn’t get my hearts fill.

    I once asked my friend Shahala to capture the colour explosion on her canvas. She is a tree-loving artist who painted the most beautiful pristine landscapes of Islamabad. I shudder to tell her about this massacre.

     That Avenue was the pride of Islamabad. It was our city’s first diplomatic enclave and used to be called Embassy Road.

     All foreign diplomats would rave about our jacarandas. I remember a Turk saying how honored she was that one of the most beautiful roads here got named after the father of Turkey. Having taught in Ankara, I would smile and say, “We only return the compliment because you have a lovely Jinnah Avenue there!” Gloating in mutual admiration and besotted by the purple hue, the Turk and I once even mused on mapping those trees. Alas, they are no more.

A fortnight ago the beautiful jacarandas were ruthlessly cut down by Capital Development Authority. The green belts are the lungs of Islamabad. The violation of trees and green areas is like chopping off the lungs of our city. Capital Development Authority says it was done for the expansion of that Avenue under the “Masterplan”.

It is the business side of Ataturk Avenue adjacent to NADRA and NAB that should have been expanded. Instead, it’s the residential side of Ataturk Avenue that has been shaved off its green. Such disrespect for the residents. Capital Development Authority is an environmental ignoramus. The so-called Master Plan is violated on a daily basis.

The green belt is being ravaged by NADRAs parking lot, cricket grounds, police chowkis, solar panels, and chai shacks, but Capital Development Authority  doesn’t move a finger. Cars and barbed wires encroach all sidewalks on the Avenue.

A pedestrian has no more rights in this city. Just one furlong away from the Mayor’s office you can find non- degradable garbage clogging the water arteries of the nullah near Sunday Bazar. So much for the Master Plan.

Please stand up to the killing of our trees and join the “Reclaim Islamabad Green” movement which is in a nascent stage right now but I hope for it to bloom fully like our jacarandas. Inshallah.

–Professor R A Siddiqui continues to teach Environmental Politics in Quaid i Azam University where she had served for three decades. 

 

 

r a siddiqui