The new Lake View Park at Rawal Dam may be a blessing for the entertainment-starved people of the twin cities but it is causing a serious concern to the environment
By Ishrat Hyatt
People who are familiar with the area around Rawal Dam will know that a public 'entertainment' facility exists close to the spillway on one side of the dam. When you look around from here you can see the houses built along the lake front on the opposite side -- the domain of the elite who managed to overcome resistance to the setting up of a residential colony because of the inevitable pollution of the lake. On the other side the old Murree Road, which got submerged after the dam was built, led right up and into the water. Those who have lived in Rawalpindi and Islamabad for a long time and know of this spot, will remember the days when families with picnic baskets would come to the place looking for leisure, and their children would romp around in shallow water, daring each other to go further. It used to be a thrilling experience, with anxious parents looking on, ready to rescue their offspring in case of an accident. This hidden nook was a secret not known to the general public and remained the favourite place of those who did frequent it, but the evenings were always a 'no-no' because the visitors were nervous about coming to this desolate area, just in case!
Eventually, a second-rate restaurant was erected and run in a half-hearted manner and small kiosks were established as business minded people saw the opportunity to make money, with the result that the place lost its charm. Later, the Capital Development Authority (CDA), which is very active under the chairmanship of Kamran Lashari, woke up to the realisation that the area could be developed into an attractive entertainment facility and also utilised to generate a moderate income. Therefore, the CDA went ahead with the project of creating a grand promenade with related amenities, at a cost of tens of millions of rupees (according to the board put up at the site).
The project found little favour with the environmentalists, but it was largely welcomed by the common people as a place that would provide them with a pleasant alternative to the first facility which had increasingly become rather stuffy because of too many stalls dotting the place, creating heaps of garbage. It presented the picture of a place left unattended. Unfortunately, this 'phenomenon' is common to all public places.
However, the CDA began by widening the road. For that purpose, a number of trees were chopped. As you drive up the place, the first thing you notice is the glare of the sun on the concretised parking lot. It's a well laid-out area and will keep the cars -- and the parking area -- free from mud and slush when it rains. That the cars will bake in the sun is another matter! The attendants who man the place to collect the parking fee of Rs 10 should be entrusted with the task of watching over the vehicles. Visitors who cannot walk the length of the main path leading to the edge of the lake and other places can catch a ride on the motorised buggies that are run by the CDA for Rs 10 per person.
The second most striking aspect of the park is that its side facing the lake is covered with light-coloured tiles and has a seating both in the open and under pergolas. There is a bandstand or stage which will hopefully be used for performances and three or four decks built over the water for fishing. Tiling this public area was probably done so that it is easier to maintain, though not everyone will agree with this concept. The road leading to the lake has been cut off and a boating jetty has been erected to cater to boating enthusiasts - no more dipping toes or splashing around, though a pool is planned so that the children can do just that!
We Pakistanis love 'eating out' the most. Hence, a corner has been designated for barbeque, while specially designed snack carts will cater to the people's taste buds. Hopefully, rumours that two fast food chains have also been given the license to operate are not true.
A CDA representative supervising work near the parking lot revealed that a large area had been designated for entertainment and activity facilities such as 'beach' volleyball and other water sports. Further expansion will see the development of a mono-train system, a botanical garden, a bird aviary and a drive-in cinema. This all sounds very exciting and will be a blessing for the entertainment-starved citizens of the twin cities, though the fallout on the environment and green areas also needs to be taken into consideration. More trees should be planted, and the firms in charge of putting entertainment facilities on the Rawal Dam map must ensure that they keep ecological and environmental damage in mind. When rains are scarce, water in the lake dries up and its bed looks parched - presenting a depressing sight. So, only the man-made features will draw visitors to the park.
It's only in the mountains that you realise that nature is simply not one of God's 'added effects' - to the canvas of the world. Rather, it's a separate 'entity'
By Sonya Rehman
There's something about the combination of mist and mountains which leaves one mesmerized. It's like tangible magic -- this surreal enchantment which you can reach out to -- feel, touch, and simply soak in.
Just this year - to escape the madness of the ruckus on the roads that the 14th of August brings with it -- my family and I used the extended weekend to venture up North. We wound up doing the usual circuit of Bhurban, Murree and Nathiangali. But this year, after countless mini-holidays up North, it proved slightly more different and, may I add, more memorable.
We ended up at the rather rustic 'Golf Motel' -- where the wooden ceilings smell slightly damp (perhaps due to all the heavy, intermittent rains which come in bouts and spells), where small cups of steaming tea served (in white china) and hot, buttered toast aid in keeping you deliciously warm and fuzzy within, where you may happen to stumble upon a large, hand-sized spider and where the mist wafts in ever so gently (and sporadically) through your window that overlooks a pretty walking track situated just behind the motel.
And, in the mountains, it's only then that you realise that nature is simply not one of God's 'added effects' - to the canvas of the world. Rather, it's a separate 'entity'. It lives, breathes, and has its very own, individual aura, and energy. And, interestingly, it all feels extremely unpredictable somehow.
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves", John Muir, a famous preservationist, had once lovingly said of nature. And, God knows it's true as well. When you're in the midst of an untainted, unsullied backdrop, ripe with fresh earthiness, you're cleansed somehow -- the worries that come with living in a metropolis are, albeit for the time being, left far away -- with nature just one window, just one footstep and just one glance away.
Having said that, my trip up North was occasionally marred with bouts of distress. Why? Simply because the increase in billboards has escalated to such an extent that it has aided in garishly commercialising what should have been left untarnished. From idiotic adverts hurriedly slapped on and painted onto thick, rock, mountain slabs -- visible from the start of one's journey all the way upwards -- to massive hoardings of telecommunication companies, beauty products and what have you; the sight truly makes one utterly nauseous, especially when you've driven out of a city -- pregnant with plastic commerciality -- in the hope for some 'time out'. Does advertising have no limit? No respect?
Just imagine, you're hugging curbs all the while admiring the mountainous backdrop, when suddenly you spot a mammoth billboard, hoisted up by a pompous telecommunication company. The sight honestly is enough to make you wince, buckle over, and consider slapping it up with balloons full of black paint!
The commerciality of the cities down below has, no doubt, rapidly made its way to the North of the country in just a span of a few odd years and, sure, it's brought with it some good -- for one; education and employment -- but the crass commercialisation which is best suited for cities (and cities alone) should have been disallowed from fouling the North.
Coming back to my trip, I recall this one instance when, as we trekked along the walking path behind the Golf Motel, the trees began swaying in this beautiful ballerina-like way which seemed to fall in tune with the wind.
And, as the sunrays brushed their light-gold slivers of fingers gently through the mane of the forest, it began to rain. So unpredictable nature can be!
Touch a tree, a rock, and a flower; rest your hand on deep brown mountain earth, and you will hear little hearts pulsating and breathing in unison like a silent orchestra that plays throughout the history of time.
A three-day marathon of bikers from Chilas to Balakot was organised to promote tourism and generate funds
By Syed Kosar Naqvi
A three-day marathon of mountain bikers in some of the most exciting terrains -- extending from Chilas on the Karakoram Highway that progressed through the beautiful Kaghan Valley of Northern Pakistan -- ended finally in the earthquake-ravaged town of Balakot at the southern tip of the Valley. A first-ever event of its kind in Pakistan, the marathon was organised not only to promote tourism in the area but also to generate funds for the earthquake victims.
Titled 'Tour of the Karakorams', the marathon combined 'Mountain Bike Stage Race' and 'Bike Tour' which saw the participation of 27 international professional cyclists from eight countries including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, Holland, Australia, Germany, America and Pakistan.
The riders spent three days traveling a distance of 230 kilometres on the road, conquering in the process the heights of Babusar Pass at more than 4,100 metres, Danna Meadows at 3,000 metres, and Shogran at 2,500 metres.
The Kaghan valley, known for its scenic beauty, lakes, waterfalls, streams and glaciers, was the the worst hit (by the Oct-8 earthquake). The number of causalties was the highest in the valley. Balakot, in particular, was completely devastated.
The Kaghan valley is surrounded by high mountains. A pass lets the road snake into the Chilas valley. This is the 4,173 metres high Babusar Pass that commands the whole Kaghan panorama as well as gives you, on a clear day, glimpses of the Nanga Parbat (the Naked Mountain) glistening at the height of 8,126 metres.
Babusar Pass, which is the highest point in Kaghan, Lake Saiful Muluk and Malika Parbat (Queen of the mountains), was also included in the traveling area for bikers. The international participants also enjoyed boating in the lake as well as the local legend about Prince Saiful Muluk who fell in love with a fairy.
Stage one -- starting from Jalkhad (3050 metres) to Babusar Pass (4175 metres) with a distance of 60 kilometres -- was covered in which the teams of Britain and New Zealand jointly succeeded to achieve the first place. Their duration was 11:29:11, followed by the Canadian team that secured 13:07:30. The team of Holland was declared third with 13:11:37. There was a river-crossing and some short, steep climbs in the first few kilometres to Lake Lalu Sar before the Babusar Pass climb.
Lake Saiful Muluk Cross-country was another interesting event with 36 kilometres' distance. The bikers were transported to the lake in jeeps where they began the race with a 500-metre start-circuit and then completed 6 laps of the lake circuit in an anti-clockwise direction.
The Canadian team, comprising Jonathan Gormick, Merg Fedyna and Catherine Vipond, was declared the first to complete the target in 4:29:01, followed by the Australian and Dutch teams that were adjudged second and third respectively.
The third and final stage -- whose starting point was Kaghan Memorial School Kawai (1450 metres) -- was completed at Pai (2925 metres) with a distance of 20 kilometres. The bikers proceeded up the valley for one kilometre and then went to Shogran. They took to a road and then resumed climbing all the way up to Pai. They completed three laps of the 850 metres circuit in the meadow. Britain was declared first when it achieved the target in 6:03:08. Holland was declared second aand Germany third.