Belarus has already played a useful role for Russia as a staging point for its troops during the initial stages of the crisis
Capital Development Authority is going to build the Bhara Kahu bypass to reduce traffic congestion on Murree Road with the occupation of the educational land of the Quaid-i-Azam University and using agricultural/ national parkland. Now the question is whether bypass is inevitable. In fact, about 4000 to 6000 thousand vehicles passed by on this road on daily bases. The traffic jams at two main points on the Bhara Kahu on Muree Road. One is opposite the CSD petrol pump where there is a tree and people park their vehicles there and the second is near the U-turn adjacent to that place. Wrong parking on both sides of the road and encroachments on the roadsides create a bottleneck that blocks the traffic. If these two points get cleared then there will be no need for this bypass until additional vehicles are not added. The main problem with our nation is that we do not ameliorate ourselves rather we start making heavy investments in some overblown solution.
Pakistan is facing the worst economic crisis at the moment; our total foreign reserves are continuously declining. The education sector is devasted, the universities do not have enough resources to pay off the salaries of faculty and employees. There are no funds for research and medical allowance for employees, and the country has reached the edge of bankruptcy, but Government is about to spend five to six billion rupees on this project. If they do so they are going to invite the biggest disaster of the time. At this point, we have to remember that Quaid-i-Azam University has been the highest-ranking university in the country for the last fifteen years and the construction of this bypass will be a big threat to the integrity of the university. The bypass will occupy about 199 -250 kanal of highly expensive land directly and about 600 kanals of the university indirectly and about 2000 kanals (directly/ indirectly) of agricultural land in total with a big disaster for the environment. The campus will be divided into two zones and the bypass will bring about more encroachments on its sides. Additionally, a large piece of land where people used to grow vegetables will also be abolished and the university’s botanical garden will be ruined. This was an agricultural area where fresh vegetables and crops were grown to meet the need for food for the masses and was a provision for the livelihood expanses of many families. One must not forget that food security is yet another big issue in Pakistan, the country would not be able to produce the amount of food required to feed its population in the coming fifteen years. Instead of increasing the cultivation area we are either building the housing societies or expanding the road network which will just add waste and pollution to the environment.
We have not learnt any lessons from the expansion of big cities like Karachi and Lahore. The expanding urbanization and the population bomb have created great disasters in society in terms of imbalance in the demand and supply theory. The increase in social crimes, domestic and industrial waste, the smoke of vehicles, deforestation, and the poor drainage system has increased all types of pollution many times more than ever before. These cities have been declared health hazardous for living, one cannot breathe properly there human and machine wastes have annihilated the atmosphere and we are about to do the same with Islamabad which is one of the eco-friendly cities in the world. Extended roads, housing schemes and a rapidly increasing population are heading towards similar issues. The construction of Bhara Kahu bypass will not only exterminate a large cultivation area but will also add a lot more to the air pollution through the smoke of vehicles passing from here. It will open the road for more vendors which means more encroachments. It will open the access of land mafia (qabza Group) and politically influential groups to the precious lands that will start new chapters of loot and plunder in this peaceful area, especially the university land.
In my opinion, this is an issue of management and can be resolved through management only. Quaid-i-Azam University is the brightest feather in the cap of Pakistan, it is a sacred educational institution that has always contributed in the development of this country and has produced the best professionals in nearly all fields and is still looking forward to do more. We cannot let anyone harm its sanctity.
Now the question arises of what the Government should do in this regard? If inevitable to build this bypass, the Government approved the construction of an overhead bridge in 2020 like those constructed on Murree Road Rawalpindi. Where several overhead bridges have been constructed to bypass the rush areas, a similar overhead bridge could have been constructed here to control the existing situation. Government should hit hard on the illegal encroachments and take immediate action to remove them, it will not need many resources. They can be stopped by fixing the grills on both sides of the road, this will stop the mobility of the people and they will not be able to create a mess. Murre Road is already a broad and spacious road, a strict check on wrong parking and encroachments should be practised and the violators should be heavily fined.
Parking plazas should be constructed at suitable distances by the roadside and people should be asked to park their vehicles there. Awareness campaigns should be conducted to educate and train the people and they should be informed that a short walk from their car to their destination is very essential and good for their health. It will maintain good levels of sugar in their blood and will help to control their blood pressure. At the same time, some places should be allocated to the vendors to set up their stalls and run their roadside businesses. This will save five billion rupees; this money can be given to the universities of Islamabad that are about to default. This financial help will give a sigh of relief to the dying institutions.
Even then if the authorities still insist to control the situation through some construction, then they should construct an overhead bridge on Murree Road and they should not deteriorate the agricultural land. The government of Pakistan should rethink this project to avoid such a big disaster in many ways.
The writer teaches sociology at the Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. He can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org