Quaid-i-Azam University is increasingly becoming the sole breathing space in a rapidly growing capital city where flora and fauna breathe along with the human populace. Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU hereafter) identifies itself with biodiversity and the habitat of various plants and animals. The captivating beauty of QAU is the laboratory for students to produce academic work and research in a conducive environment that benefits students from across disciplines. QAU is not a room with four-sided walls where students learn black-and-white words; it is a space where both students and faculty enjoy intellectual freedom and aspire to excel. The students resonate with nature; the energy green QAU radiates, motivates students to push the boundaries andachieve unachievable. The vigor of QAU is its vastness and close to nature campus, which instills territorial integrity. QAU’s prestige is its land and diversity of students, which should have been a flagship project for the federal government. Instead, it has been attempted to limit it by fragmenting the QAU’s land into two disconnected parts; one part is towards Margalla Hills, and the other is towards Barakahu: which contains the Botanical Garden.I do not have a problem with road construction in general and any bypass in particular when they are meant to save time and facilitate the public. However, when a bypass bisects an educational institution into two parts it reflects many problems within the education sector, and this act is highly condemnable.
So, when I learned about Barakahu Bypass: it jolted me to the core; the ingenuity at play to build a bypass in no time without taking all major stakeholders on board and without producing the mandatory EIA report. QAU has been throttled and suffocated as the identity of this prestigious university is its biodiversity, flora and fauna, diversity of students, the intellectual freedom which nurtures minds, and the future security of education in the form of land. QAU has paid for 1709 acres of its land, and it is subject to the need of future generations for utilization and construction for academic purposes.The delayed EIA report now produced by Zeeruk International, whose commitment is to preserve the environment and provide a resilient solution to development and planning: has produced an EIA report which misses the presence and importance of the Botanical Garden, which is hardly 500 meters from the Barakahu Bypass.
The report is surprising because it has not catered to the impacts on Botanical Garden and the faculty residential area, which are less than 500 and 5 meters from the Bypass respectively. The Botanical Garden would be affected by the construction of this larger public interest project as Botanical Garden serves the purpose of cultivation, preservation, collection, and experimentation of plant species used as specimens in the laboratories. Primarily, it is a facility that students rely upon for research purposes and experimentation. Moreover, the green vegetation of QAU is a major reason for the purified and clean air in the vicinity and QAU Botanical Gardens also adds to it. The Botanical Gardens also collect endangered plant species, cultivate their growth, and preserve them.
The adverse effects of the Barakahu Bypass would be directly on the Botanical Garden which would include road dust affecting the growth of plants and their aesthetic value. The vehicular exhaust will decrease air quality, and green QAU will not appeal as it now does. In simple words, the leaf blades get covered with road dust and vehicle exhaust which forms a thin layer of dust on the leaf and block light penetration and the opening of stomata to carry out Photosynthesis. The EIA report does not highlight that air pollutants are toxic to trees and that QAU is surrounded by several types of plants, whereas the Botanical Garden has been wiped out of the map to justify the project.
QAU’s Botanical Garden holds a recorded collection of plants with their biological names, which are significant for students’ research purposes and the conservation of plants. The road dust from the Bypass will not only damage the existence of the Botanical Garden but will also impede the research of students from the plant sciences department, who heavily rely on the specimens from the Botanical Garden and the glass house and greenhouse. Furthermore, Botanical Garden is of paramount importance; because it reduces air pollution, purifies the atmosphere, raises awareness about threats to plants and their conservation and preserves biodiversity. QAU Botanical garden aims to hold a documented collection of living and preserved plant specimens to facilitate students in research and education.
The Botanical Garden consists of a glass house, greenhouse, seed bank, herbarium, and botanical nursery for public and scientific awareness. It spreads on 25 acres scientifically divided into family-wise cultivation i.e., Citrus garden, Rose garden, vegetable farm, ornamental flowers, medicinal herb center, aromatic plants sites, gymnosperms, lower plants sites, and sites for research crops. Moreover, it is an institutional building project which has facilitated students and the scientific community in their research. The purpose of the Botanical Garden, which is to provide scientific education, will fail once the Barakahu Bypass starts manifesting itself.
Reading the EIA report raises a basic question that anyone with environmental expertise would not overlook the importance of the Botanical Garden knowing the fact that atmospheric pollutants harm the plants. Perhaps, Capital Development Authority also finds it feasible to endorse the EIA report without judging the ground realities. The report produced is undermining the environmental effect that will be caused by the Barakahu Bypass.I reinstate traffic from Barakahu Bypass 100 times greater than the existing Muree express highway, would deposit dust on the conserved plants in the Botanical Garden, and would damage the experimentation laboratory of the students. The repercussions of Barakahu Bypass are on the Botanical Garden in general and on research in particular; that is the academic standing of QAU in the world’s ranking.