Preservation of 3 Mughal era gardens imperative to promote eco tourism

PESHAWAR (APP): Once known as the city of flowers and gardens, Peshawar was losing its three Mughal era gardens due to encroachment and loss of greenery due to changing weather patterns and its proper upkeeping was required to revive its past glory.
The famous gardens of Peshawar including Wazir Bagh, Shalimar Gardens and Jinnah Park (old Canningum park) where flowers were blossom these days in the past, were now marred by encroachment, dirt and plastics scattered all around underming its natural beauty.
Gone were the days when joy of small kids was boundless while seeing colourful butterflies hovering over flowers of spring and dense pipal trees in the Mughal era Wazir Bagh garden where greenery has started dying due to improper upkeeping and increased urbanization.
Chasing butterflies and hide and seek of small children among the thickly grown pipal trees used to be a great fun and laughter but all these charms wore off as the time passed by and today this historic garden was giving barely a deserted look.
Pipal trees were so thick that one would get the impression of night even during broad daylight in the summer season.
Wazirbagh gardens is located at Yakatooth area in South of Peshawar City on vast land and was a source of recreation for Peshawarties over centuries.
The oldest garden used to be comfortable place for senior citizens while sitting under the cold shade of pipal trees in soothing environment coupled with chirping of birds and exchanged views of their life experiences and day to day happenings with their children plays around in its lush green lawns.
Wazir Bagh was used for morning exercises by Peshawarites due to its awesome walking tracks and lush green lawns and became a unique source of recreation and picnic spot.
Today, it is disappointing to see missing chirping birds, colourful butterflies and ladybirds due to vanishing of the canopy pipal trees at Wazir Bagh due to lackluster approach of the local communities, past government, deforestation and improper up keeping.
“Since my childhood, I used to visit this historic park for exercise on its beautiful tracks snaking through its thickly grown tall pipal trees with people sitting around in sprawled lawns,” Qaisar Khan, a retired employee of PESCO told APP at Wazir Bagh.
Recalling his past memories, he said, tourists were highly impressed by its sprawled lawns, fountains, pods, apricots, peaches, pomegranates and colourful flowers.
Shinwaris, Afridis, Mohmands, Bajauris and Khattaks besides domestic and foreign tourists used to come here in droves to spend some time in a relaxed environment under its shady trees.
It was also a great source of study for students of nearby Government Superior Science College due to its conducive environment and for sports athletes.
“After 25 years, I came to my favorite garden where I was disappointed to see the pathetic condition of its two vast lawns, fountains’ pool, dying greeny and withered pipal trees,” he said.
“Wazir Bagh is the identity of Peshawar that should be preserved along with Shahi Bagh Garden and Jinnah Park for future generations.”
He urged the KP government to take cogent measures for its complete rehabilitation, planting of pipal trees and impose complete ban on free movement of people inside the historic garden.
He said fixation of entry fee would help check free movement of people besides closing of its football ground to help protect its greenery from further degradation.
Wazir Bagh garden was constructed in 19th century when Prince Shah Mahmood Durrani sent his forces under the command of Sardar Fateh Muhammad Khan Barkzai alias Wazir against his cousion Shah Shuja, who was the ruler of Peshawar.
In 1810, Sardar Fateh Muhammed had toppled Shah Shuja rule and laid the foundation of Wazir Bagh garden. It has a Royal Durrani graveyard in its South and Tomb of Beejo Bibi, a Mistress of Shah Taimur son of Emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali nearby, which are attracting tourists.
Peshawar is one of the oldest city of South Asia having about 2,700 years old civilization where international merchants of the subcontinent, Afghanistan and Central Asia had stayed in its ancient Qissa Khwani bazaar at nights and swapped tales of love, culture, art & architecture, music and each others’ traditions.
They also visited nearby Wazir Bagh, Jinnah Park and Shahi Bagh gardens before their departure to Afghanistan and onward Central Asian Republics through historic Khyber Pass.
British diplomat Sir Alexander Burnes had special love for Wazir Bagh by visiting it in 1832 and rested here. He was highly impressed by its breathtaking natural beauty and lush green meadows.
The fortune was finally smiled on Wazir Bagh garden with getting the authorities attention for its overhauling under ‘New Peshawar Old Charm’ project to make it again centre of attraction for foreign and domestic tourists.
The project envisages complete refurbishment of Wazir Bagh garden besides value addition to the city’s outlook under seven ‘R’ strategy to repair, realign, renovate, restore, rehabilitate and relax its environment besides remove all kinds of encroachment.
Refurbishing work on Wazir Bagh has recently been completed to regain its past glory and made it a centre of ecotourism, officials in KP Government told APP.
Under the plan, he said its walking tracks and lawns improved and a special corner for women and a cafeteria established to facilitate tourists.
The four main enclosures of Wazir Bagh including pavilion, lawns, crisscrossing pavement and fountains’ pool refurbished without compromising on its originality.
Funland and Parda Bagh at Shalimar Gardens on about 176 kanal land at historic Shahi Bagh garden has been removed to restore its original grendure.
Slip roads were built to ensure smooth flow of traffic on roads leading to Wazir Bagh and Shahi Bagh gardens for facilitation of tourists besides revival of centuries-old traditions of Qehwa Khanas (tea rooms) at ancient Qissa Khwani bazaar and installation of heritage plaques and photos in main squares.
The plan were implemented in phase-wise for which different major arteries proposed include university road, ring road, Khyber road, GT road, circular road, Dalazak road, Nasir Bagh road, Charsadda road, Kohat road and Wazir Bagh road to enhance Peshawar’s outlook.
Similarly, problems of illegally installed billboards, debris buildings’ materials, encroachment, redundant poles, iron structures, rusted vehicles, dysfunctional streetlights, missing lane cat eyes, jumbled up wires of various utilities and poor civic conditions in the vicinity of Wazir Bagh and Shahi Bagh gardens were addressed on priority basis.
The area of Jinnah Park garden has been restricted due to ill planned construction of BRT and greeny started dying due to poor upkeeping.
The people requested the Provincial Government to ensure proper mentaince and upkeeping of these parks to make Peshawar again city of gardens.