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City Notebook – Earth Day celebration at Urban Forest in Clifton

The Karachi walla has limited expectations from his neighborhood park. What else would you expect from someone who lives next to Ibn-Qasim park – that vast stretch of curated grassy patch without any real trees or activity. I had a good fortune to hear Tofiq Pasha sb – the celebrated and well known Mali – at few occasions. He can weave facts and figures, that you may find boring otherwise, into a beautiful story. A story that can inspire and scare you at the same time. About our planet, Earth. Maa Dharti, as Pasha and Arieb Azhar would call it, making it very personal.

The neighborhood Park behind Emerald tower is usually less frequented but it was not the case on this Sunday evening when we arrived there. There were several cars and few heavy bikes, parked in organized fashion at the entrance. We walked inside and found few visitors checking kitchen garden on the left. I have attended Pasha’s Bhajitable class at his farm in the past and was surprised at the attendance and enthusiasm of the participants. I was there to see Pasha’s farm and clearly did not benefit much from kitchen gardening 101 but that’s a different story. We moved further and reached a red color tent where we saw some familiar faces. The stage was set for speeches and the first one was an inspiring one by lady behind Trashit. She shared the process of making compost and encouraged everyone to at least segregate their trash and share it with them so that they can turn into compost. Their stall had interesting items for sale; bamboo toothbrush, stainless steel straw and bags of compost. Up next was an ex-NASA physicist who has come back to Karachi and been working with several institutions in order to process garbage more scientifically and effectively. You can follow his great work here.

These stories evoked a sense of sadness. While everyone clapped and celebrated their endeavors but soon they would be on their own (or in smaller groups), out there in Karachi’s maddening heat, dealing with disappointments and apathy on daily basis. But it’s up to them, to keep believing and carrying on. Great things might just happen. Tofiq Pasha was next and he was his usual master story teller, connecting several facts from here and there and creating a powerful narrative. Simple facts such as crows multiplying faster due to widely scattered organic trash. The crows are a frequent nest predators and eat eggs of many species such as sparrows, parrots etc. Next time if you wonder where other birds have disappeared then be cognizant of the fact that you have played a role in their disappearance.

Shahzad Qureshi, the force behind Urban forest took over from there and highlighted what to expect from the park in coming months and years. Urban forest always had a promise but there have been moments when the dream almost shattered. Like any other innovation, there were doubts around what was a revolutionary idea when Shahzad Qureshi introduced it for the first time in 2015. Those doubts have been answered largely. Urban Forest has delivered in short term and much is expected in coming years.

According to his official website “Urban Forests are forests which are present in and around urban settlements. They can spring up naturally, or they can be initiated through certain methods, the practice of which is known as urban forestry. Our imitative is the first of its kind in Pakistan where we are using the Miyawaki Method to grow native, wild and maintenance free forests in major urban areas in Pakistan. Forests grow 10x faster and are 30x more dense. These forests can capture more carbon and address the urgency to restore ecosystems that encourage biodiversity”.

There was a patch of an area where one could witness it happening already. A bunch of native trees, planted in proximity to each other seem to be growing well. They were only three years old and there was a promise of faster growth than their breed in isolation. There were saplings for everyone to plant at the back. Shehzad has planned to plant 50,000 trees, creating similar patches around the park. There was a lake which was fed sewerage water filtered through plants themselves. They have already sighted honey bees and butterflies hovering around the thicket of trees. As a good will gesture, Shehzad has been sharing vegetables produced by the kitchen garden with the neighborhood.

Urban Forest can help redefine the role of neighborhood parks in Karachi.

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Categories: City Notebook

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