Saturday, 21 January 2017

Beautiful Islamabad

I fell into a dirty swamp in Monrovia during a HASH walk and self righteously blogged about it at the time. My blog post is entitled: "The muck and mire of expat lives." If you have a few idle minutes at hand, feel free to read my rant. It goes on and on. 

During my visit to Islamabad, I make it a point to take Kavita to my beloved Japanese Park, a park where I played as child. She of course loves it too. But depressingly, I notice that it's often trashed. Throngs of the public visit the park for its beautiful greens, nestled close to the Margalla Hills. Children and even slicked adolescent boys like to sit on the swings and see saws. I always feel like shooing them away. Hardly a year ago, the swings and slides were replaced by the Japan Government, and, it made me so angry to see men and boys sitting on them. These swings and slides for Kavita, dammit. 

Worse, of course, is how folks trash the park and, just drop plastic bags, juice containers and chips packets on to the ground. They just discard garbage here and there. 

The Park didn't have any entrance fees this time around. Even if they do, they're hardly 10 or 20 rupees. And, Park authorities are not there to make admonish anyone, either, for misusing the children's swings or against littering. 

Trash is always on my mind and, I keep wondering what the CDA of Beautiful Islamabad is doing to make sure Islamabad is not only superficially beautiful but has a green and sustainable approach to keeping our environment clean. Is plastic going to be banned any time soon? Are there any fines against littering? Where does the city's waste go to? How are our public parks being maintained and preserved? And, do adolescent boys have to come to a children's park to strut around? I somehow don't feel Kavita is safe around single men and boys loitering in a public space.

I went to visit a family in Saidpur Village. We crossed some narrow lanes over a stream which was completely trashed. I asked my hosts why everyone throws the garbage there. My host told me there is no dumpster. I felt so angry. Saidpur is advertised as a tourist attraction and, what is the city administration doing for the community around the restaurants which are doing roaring business in this spot? Can we not even keep this beautiful corner of the city clean? 

I felt quite embarrassed at how the middle and lower middle classes have to live right next to filth. 

This made me remember my own experience in Monrovia and, I wondered in case its the "poor areas" which suffer from garbage and lack of hygiene. But then I remembered that the Mamba Point beach suffers the same bad luck. It's surrounded by the most important offices and residences of the elite NGO and UN staff but the beach under their noses is a poster image for Green Peace. 

During a neighbourhood walk in my beloved F-11/4, I stopped to glare at an overflowing dumpster and billowing plastic bags in the green belt. This is a well-to-do neighbourhood where people live in 'khotis ' and, yet, I wonder how many of the people who live here are bothered to pollution in the very spot where they go for their evening strolls.

One can tell it's a well-to-do neighbourhood because not only are the sahibs and memsahibs out and about in their walks but, also by the guard and pet dogs that chaukidaars and naukars are taking out for exercise.

It makes you wonder. Do higher-class people automatically have a higher sense of environmental responsibility because they have the education, money, resources, time and, concerns? Or, do structures and laws have to be put in place so we have a cleaner city? A city that has in-built mechanisms to prevent littering, responsibly dispose garbage and, even recycle it? How do you create such a society? We often label folks as jahil for bad behaviour. We literally blame crime, bad parenting, lack of sophistication, sexism, and even racism on lack of education. But what could be more unsophisticated than calling oneself an educated, higher class and, still tolerating garbage and littering of our natural environment in this day and age? It really makes one wonder what it would take to turn things around.

Unless littering is not going to be a punishable offence, our society has no hope of becoming green. Unless we don't ban plastic and have some long term plans for recycling, alternative solutions to plastic bags and create opportunities for recycling and green policies, we are not thinking ahead. Unless we don't teach our children how to respect and cherish trees, birds, animals, the sky, the rivers, the soil, we can't call ourselves a responsible generation. Unless we cannot ensure that the poorer communities live in dignified and clean areas, we can't call ourselves the Beautiful Islamabad. 

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