Saving the canal
The News, Saturday, August 22, 2009
The canal that runs through Lahore represents much that is good about the city. The shrubs, bushes and tall trees that line it give the provincial capital the greenery that its residents have cherished for centuries. The waterway – even today when pollution has tarnished its beauty – offers a kind of calm oasis in the heart of the urban jungle, where families picnic and fitness-lovers jog. It is these factors that have led a group of earnest citizens to renew their campaign against a plan to broaden the road along the canal which would result in hundreds of trees being chopped down. While the Punjab government argues this is necessary to maintain smooth traffic flow, the ‘Save Lahore Movement’ argues the massacre of greenery would inflict great environmental damage and indeed erode the very nature of Lahore. Trees marked for chopping have been chalked and placards put up demanding they be saved. The action by citizens including many women and children has caught public interest, with passers by stopping to find out more.
Such civic involvement in the affairs of our cities is vital. More people must get involved. Not only in Lahore but also in other cities such as Karachi, urban planners need to realize that preserving what has taken years to create is vital. Development is not only about building bigger roads or bridges. Putting in place better public transport and enforcing traffic discipline could play a still bigger role in keeping vehicles moving, while also helping to cut pollution and keep intact the trees that give life to our cities and to the people who live in them.