By Adnan Bashir
Regarded once as the city of gardens, spilling with a populace of millions, modern day Lahore desperately falls short of its reputation. Crowded and choked, it remains buried and veiled in a shroud of smog and dust all round the year. For the same reason, looking at the other end of the spectrum, environmentalists rate Lahore as the most toxic and polluted urban metropolitan of the country today.
Depletion of parks and gardens has become a trademark of the contemporary development. A monster of concrete jungle emanating in the form of high rise commercial buildings, plazas, flyovers, underpasses, roads and pavements has swallowed the open spaces, green belts, trees and plants. Population of Lahore, which is tipped to approach 10 million, is left with hardly any respite against the ever growing congestion and traffic.
Amidst all that onslaught, located in the heart of Lahore, Model town Park has managed to escape that flood of commercialization and survived for decades. Speaking in historical context, when juxtaposed with the likes of Shalimar Gardens and tombs of Jahangir and Noor Jehan , that underline and symbolize rich cultural heritage but have undergone miserable desolation over the years, it happens to be a nascent development.
Situated at the core of affluent and upscale urban residential pocket of Model town, it distinguishes itself by its enormous size, verdant expanse, soothing contours, plantation and reasonable maintenance. The serenity, calm and relief that suffuses the atmosphere, in stark contrast to the commotion that pervades life outside this enclosure, makes it a family retreat, a healthy outlet and a furtive love birds’ paradise alike.
A sizeable parking lot and multiple ingress and egress points make it accessible for all the people visiting the park. There is abundance and variety of flora and fauna that adds to the attraction of the place. Quite a wide stretch of a muddy jogging track, about 2.5 kms in circumference, encircles the entire area all along its outer fringe. For most parts, a strip of tall shadowy trees run parallel to the track. The landscaping and contouring have been tastefully done accompanied by rockery at certain points. Narrow paved paths serpentine in the middle bisecting the extensive lush green grassy patches on either side. There is a nursery and a couple of children parks dotting the wide expanse.
What adds to the fun quotient is a provision of a narrow boating strip and fountains right at the centre of the park. One can choose between the paddle and motor boats as per one’s liking.
Birds and fowls are seen wallowing in the water soaked lawns. Plenty of pews and benches have been provided to facilitate the visitors. In addition to the weekends and public holidays, swarms of people crowd the facility during the pleasant summer evenings and basking sunny winter mornings and afternoons.
The huge chunk of the land is quite well maintained despite a decent average turn out. All credit goes to the Model Town Society for upholding the standards and making Model Town Park a distinctive spot that pulls the crowd from every part of the town. Arguably the best park of the Lahore and one of the biggest, it offers solace to the weary citizens in the face of ever dwindling possibilities and increasing urbanization and pollution.
While the Model Town park and Society has stood up to the expectations, the challenge for the civic and development authorities and district administration lies in restoring some of the historical parks and gardens to bring some refuge to the pollution marred, war torn, inflation hit, despondent and disappointed society that may induce a draught of fresh air and afford some breathing space, if not quite revive the city of gardens that once Lahore boasted itself of!