Karachi: Sharea Faisal, the city’s main artery stretching from Karachi Airport to defunct Hotel Metropole, has been turned green due to massive plantation of wonder tree Conocarpus by the City District Government Karachi (CDGK). However, the road is equally dangerous for pedestrians who simply can’t cross the road due to fast traffic flow.
Conocorpus is ever-green, beautiful and has a thick foliage. It is hardy and needs little water, which it draws from the soil. Hence its plantation on Sharea Faisal is understandable. One also finds other evergreen trees on the road, such as Lignum and Ashoka. The road is punctuated by Neem and date palm trees. Then we find creepers at Naval Officers Residential Colony (NORE) that makes one nostalgic because one doesn’t find them in the city anymore.
“I think it’s a wise decision on the part of city government to plant Conocarpus on Sharae Faisal as elsewhere in the city,” said ex-secretary of Sindh Wildlife and Forest Department, Shamsul Haq Memon. “They have planted a species that is slow growing and won’t affect electric wires,” he said. He also rejected the notion that the pollen of Conocarpus would pave the way for allergy. “No scientific study has been conducted so far that proves that pollen of Conocarpus is allergic,” he said.
What is worrisome about Sharea Faisal, however, is that it lacks appropriate pedestrian crossings. “It’s really suicidal to cross the road. Karachi is being transformed into a ‘fast car city’ although it should be made into a pedestrian- and commuter-friendly city,” noted architect and town planner Arif Hasan.
“Research about the requirements of pedestrians and commuters should become a part of road and transport projects,” he said.
The research should include details about footpaths, zebra crossings, right height of footpaths, comfortable bus stops at accessible places and an understanding that pedestrian bridges are not an alternative to zebra crossings. Then the decision should be made about the speed limit of cars and the possibility of pedestrians moving across the city from one place to another without fear of being overrun, Hasan said.
“The vision to convert Karachi into fast car city has also destroyed localised commerce,” Hasan said. He predicted that after 10 to 15 years, traffic would pile up so much that the government would have no choice but to install traffic signals again.
One wonders why city administration is adamant to make a road dangerous that has such a historical significance.