Friday, January 18, 2008

New tree species found in Madagascar

A self-destructing palm tree that flowers once every 100 years and then dies has been discovered on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, botanists said Thursday.

The name of the giant palm and its remarkable life cycle will be detailed in a study by Kew Gardens scientists in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society published Thursday.

"It's spectacular. It does not flower for maybe 100 years and when it's like this it can be mistaken for other types of palm," said Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, who works for the London botanical gardens in Madagascar.

"But then a large shoot, a bit like an asparagus, grows out of the top of the tree and starts to spread. You get something that looks a bit like a Christmas tree growing out of the top of the palm," he said.

The branches of this shoot then become covered in hundreds of tiny white flowers that ooze with nectar, attracting insects and birds.

But the effort of flowering and fruiting depletes the tree so much that within a few months it collapses and dies, said botanist Dr. John Dransfield, author of the study.

Dransfield noted that "even for Madagascar this is a stupendous palm and an astonishing discovery."

The world's fourth largest island, Madagascar is renowned for its unusual flora and fauna, including 12,000 species of plant found nowhere else in the world. Indeed 90 percent of its plant species are endemic.

The palm tree, which grows to 66 feet in height and has about 16-foot leaves, is only found in an extremely remote region in the northwest of the country, some four days by road from the capital. Local villagers have known about it for years although none had seen it in flower until last year.

The bizarre flowering ritual was first spotted by Frenchman Xavier Metz, who runs a cashew plantation nearby. After seeing it he notified Kew Gardens.

Puzzling Dransfield is how botanists had missed such a "whopping palm" until now. According to him it is the largest palm species in the country but there appear to be only about 100 in existence.

He also questions how the palm got to Madagascar. The tree has similarities to Chuniophoeniceae palms, however these are only found in Asia, more than 3,700 miles away.

Dransfield suggests the plant has been quietly living and dramatically dying in Madagascar since the island split with mainland India 80 million years ago.

New tree species found in Madagascar

Century-old tree’s likely chopping irks locals

SIALKOT, Jan 17: The administration is bent upon cutting a century-old Pipal tree (ficus religiosa) for its obstructing traffic flow in Kutchery Road-Abbott Road junction while locals have vowed to resist the move, terming it detrimental to their acclimatisation with the tree accrued over the years.

The locals are of the view that the tree provided them shade and shelter for over 100 years and its removal or ‘biological killing’ would be shocking for them.

The Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) had decided cutting the tree to expand and renovate Kutchery Road-Abbott Road junction (Bohar Wala Chowk) during ongoing remodelling and repair of the city’s two busiest roads.

The TMA’s earlier move to remove the tree did not bear fruit as locals and shopkeepers running businesses in the vicinity resisted it sternly.

Now the locals have displayed posters and banners in various parts of the city urging citizens to collectively help protect and preserve the ancient Pipal tree, which had acquired the status of city’s heritage and had given recognition to the area.

The authorities concerned were, however, of the view that the tree was main hurdle in widening the junction facing mounting traffic density while the locals said that they would not allow officials to “kill” this tree at any cost. In this connection, they have also announced moving a civil court against the Pipal tree’s likely chopping by TMA.

Reference:: Century-old tree’s likely chopping irks locals

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PESHAWAR: 163 school buildings declared dangerous

PESHAWAR: 163 school buildings declared dangerous

PESHAWAR, Jan 15: The authorities have declared 163 buildings of public sector schools dangerous in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where lives of thousands of children may be at risk.

The directorate of education, Fata, had conducted a survey of the public sector buildings in the seven tribal agencies and six Frontier Regions and declared structures of 163 school buildings unsafe.

“The directorate will seek opinion from the engineering department to demolish the buildings or if it can be repaired,” said an official. He admitted that the buildings had been declared unsafe.

The survey, conducted in collaboration with a foreign donor agency last year, said that 126 primary, 20 middle and 17 high school buildings were dangerous, while more than 500 public sector school buildings required major repair work.

In the Bajaur region, 32 primary school buildings, in Mohmand, 28 and in Khyber, 26 buildings had been declared dangerous.

The report said that of 4,575 primary schools in the public sector in Fata, 1,777 schools were without basic facilities, including drinking water, toilets, electricity and boundary walls. Similarly, 751 community schools in the region have no basic facilities.

The condition of schools in six Frontier Regions is more pathetic. The report said that in FR Dera Ismail Khan, 42 of 87 primary schools were without electricity and toilets and 54 schools had no drinking water facility.

A senior official told Dawn that the directorate had no resources to carry out repair and maintenance works or provide facilities in schools in Fata and it depended on foreign assistance.

He said the United States Agency for International Development and the Japanese government had launched a schools rehabilitation programme in the tribal area last year.

Under the programme, he said, the USAID would construct and rehabilitate over 50 schools in the tribal region.

An official at the office of the Agency Education Officer in Khyber Agency said five primary schools had been constructed under the USAID programme and some NGOs were providing basic facilities in several schools in the area. But the pace of work was very slow, because of the law and order situation, he added

The USAID is working with the Fata directorate of education to increase school enrolment by constructing and furnishing 65 primary, middle and high schools, out of a total of 4,583 public schools, in Fata. Thirty schools have been completed in the region and work was underway on another 22.

Cultural encyclopaedia to preserve heritage

Cultural encyclopaedia to preserve heritage

* Includes more than 200 pictures
* Research on culture and history of provinces underway

ISLAMABAD: The Lok Virsa is working on the series of cultural encyclopaedia on all the four provinces to preserve the heritage of Pakistan.

The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage has completed research work on NWFP and it would be launched soon, an official of Lok Virsa told reporters here on Tuesday. The encyclopaedia of Northern Areas has already been launched reflecting the culture and traditions of the entire area including the history, geography, demographics, ethos, crafts and professions of the people.

It also portrays the local traditions including food, lifestyle, dresses, festivals, folk tales, literature, dialects, arts and architecture.

The encyclopedia includes more than 200 pictures depicting Pakistan as the home of many ancient civilisations that influenced the cultures of South Asia.

Pakistan has a rich cultural and ethnic background dating back to the Indus Valley Civilisation whereas many cultural practices and monuments have been inherited from the rule of many rulers that have added their cultural traditions to the region, he said. He further said that research on Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan is underway which would also illustrate the cultural and historical importance of these areas.

Daily Times

Dare Devils

Children play on rail tracks in the capital.
Daily Times

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rawal Lake pollution: REIP to set up two sewage treatment plants

Rawal Lake pollution: REIP to set up two sewage treatment plants
By Staff Report, Daily times.

* Housing societies’ sewage water polluting Rawal Lake
* REIP has forwarded land allocation plan to CDA

RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi Environment Improvement Project (REIP) plans to set up Rs 36 million worth of two sewage treatment plants at Bani Gala and Bari Imam to save Rawal Lake from getting polluted.

Sources in the REIP told Daily Times on Sunday that the residents of Rawalpindi were getting polluted water from Rawal Lake, which was the main source of drinking water. The samples collected by the REIP from the lake showed high concentrations of phosphate and sulphate due to eutrophication, which was dangerous for human health. Eutrophication is a process whereby water bodies such as lakes, estuaries, or slow-moving streams receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth. This enhanced plant growth reduces dissolved oxygen in water when dead plant material decomposes and can cause other organisms to die.

The sources said that sewage water coming to the lake from nearby housing societies like Bani Gala, Bari Imam and poultry farms located around Murree via Korang River and nullahs was also contributing equally to polluting the lake water.

The Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) alone spends Rs 6 million annually on purchase of Alum to make the lake water fit for human consumption.

The sources said that a committee was constituted in 2002 under the chairmanship of the interior secretary to tackle the issue of pollution in the lake. The committee banned fishing and cutting of trees around the lake and warned the poultry farms against discharging their refuse into the lake.

The committee also recommended laying of a trunk sewer along the lake to control pollution. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had also planned to lay a trunk sewer in the area and would soon hire a consultant in this regard. The committee did a lot to secure the lake water from further pollution but the implementation process was rather slow, which had an impact on the measures to control pollution in the lake.

The REIP forwarded the plan to the CDA for allocation of land at Bani Gala and Bari Imam to set up sewage treatment plants. In a recent meeting of RIEP and CDA in Islamabad, the latter agreed to allocate land but suggested that treatment plants should be included in Islamabad Master Plan before formal approval for allocation of land.

After getting go-ahead from the CDA, the sources said, the RIEP would conduct feasibility study to set up the plants. According to plan, each treatment plant would be able to treat four million gallons of sewage daily.

To walk under a huge banyan tree

Love for trees is a natural thing but here I will share with you a fascinating story from the heart of Lahore. I have read it in the Daily Times, now I am sharing it here.
Its about love for trees, its about love for Banyan Trees.You can read the full article here.

LAHORE LAHORE AYE: Lahore radio’s lovesick trees
By A Hamid

I was associated with the Lahore radio station for close to forty-five years as staff artist. My friendships were mostly with singers, composers and instrumentalists. Those radio years gave me the opportunity to get to know artists who had few, if any, equals. They were such nice people also, seldom asking anyone to share their burdens, which were considerable. They were people of such childlike simplicity that even inconsequential things would make them happy. They were also very tender-hearted and sometimes a single note of music would bring tears to their eyes.

The famous sarangi player, I remember was Ustad Ghulam Muhammad of Kasur, who had accompanied some of the most famous classical singers of those times. He would always accompany Lahore’s great classical vocalist Ustad Kalay Khan. In his later years, he had come to be associated with the Lahore radio station, which afforded me an opportunity to observe him closely. He was thick set and his hair had disappeared except from over his temples. He had a peculiar walk, weighted somewhat to one side. The station had moved into its new building by now. Behind the canteen, they had set up the central production unit and the recording studios where classical, semi-classical and Punjabi folk music was recorded. The musicians associated with the central production unit were a separate group, and they included Ustad Ghulam Muhammad. He would also, when needed, provide accompaniment to performances being broadcast or recorded for the main station.

To go from the central production unit to the main station, you had to walk under a huge banyan tree. Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would always look up at the tree’s thick branches when passing under it. There was another banyan tree facing the engineering rooms, which was not so thick-leafed as the big one. The two trees were a hundred, may be, a hundred and fifty yards apart. Ustad Ghulam Muhammad once said, as we sat in the canteen sipping tea, that the tree next to the central production unit was female and the one facing the engineering rooms was male. “When the wind blows, that is when the two of them make contact. They are very much in love with each other,” he told us. We loved his childlike talk - a hallmark of the Ustad’s personality.

It so happened that the engineering people decided to build a few more rooms but this could only be done if the smaller banyan tree was chopped down. Little did they know or care about male and female trees and so they sent for men who began to hack the tree down. When Ustad Ghulam Muhammad learnt what was going on, he rushed to the chief engineer’s office, begging him not to bring down the tree. He argued that if this tree, which was a male was cut down, someone would lose his life. But he failed to convince him. The tree was brought down and construction got underway. I witnessed all that with much sadness. Now whenever Ustad Ghulam Muhammad would pass under the remaining tree, he would look up and say, “Its mate is dead; this one is not going to survive long.” While the tree did not die, Ustad Ghulam Muhammad did. It happened one day when he was walking under the lone tree. He shuddered, fell to the ground in a heap and died.

A Hamid, the distinguished Urdu novelist and short story writer, writes a column every week based on his memories of old Lahore. Translated from the Urdu by Khalid Hasan

Peshawar, the city of gardens, fast losing its glory

Peshawar, the city of gardens, fast losing its glory
By Adeel Saeed

Taken From::
Associated Press of Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Oct 18 (APP): Known as the city of roses, gardens and fragrance in history, Peshawar is fast losing its glory due to manifold increase in population and urbanization.

Almost all the historians and rulers have described Peshawar in their memoirs as the ‘City of Gardens and Roses’, but the historic gardens have either vanished or reduced to nominal with the passage of time.

Mughal Ruler, Zaheer-ud-Din Babar in his book Tuzk-e-Babari wrote that in 1519 when he passed through Bagram (old name of Peshawar), the city was known for its beautiful gardens and colourful flowers.

Monstuart Elphinstone, the first British who visited Peshawar in 1809 as Attach in Afghan cabinet, was quoted in book ‘The Pathans’ by Sir Olf Caro that he was greatly surprised with the scenic beauty of Peshawar.

Even the famous Chinese pilgrim and historian, Shin Fa Hian and Hiuen Tsang, who travelled in this area 400 BC had mentioned gardens and some trees including the great Banyan (Bargad) tree at the present site of Shah Ji Ki Dheri in their books, informed Ehsan Ali Curator NWFP Archaeology department.

According to Hiuen Tsang, Ehsan continued, the branches of the Banyan tree were thick and the shade beneath, sombre and deep. The famous stupas built by Kanishka to the south of the Bargad tree have also disappeared.

Another historic tree dating back to the Kanishka period was cut down recently in Ander Shehr. The Chowk Yadgar building was demolished for widening of the road.

Some of the gardens mentioned in Peshawar District Gazetteer published in 1933 now do not exist. One such example is ‘Old Panj Tiraths’ where building of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce stands today. Some signs of Old Panj Tiraths are still visible at presently Chacha Younas Park or Family Park.

According to ‘Peshawar Historic City of the Frontier, written by prominent historian and archaeologist Dr. Ahmad Hassan Dani, as the name indicates, there are five holy bathing places or ‘tirthas’, shaded by some sacred ancient Bargad trees. The site was a place of great veneration to Hindu community.

According to another book ‘Gardens of Peshawar’ written recently by a local journalist, Imran Rasheed, there were about 28 gardens in Peshawar named by different rulers of the area.

Some of the gardens still exist, but majority of them have vanished with the passage of time.

Imran Rasheed’s book gives complete details about gardens, parks and green pastures of Peshawar and reasons for their destruction. He also blamed Sikh rulers who ruled Peshawar from 1823 to 1849 for destruction of Peshawar gardens.

The Sikhs ruthlessly destroyed gardens of Peshawar which were later revived by British rulers, he writes in his book.
“The gardens were not only used by Peshawarites for recreational activities, but were also the place of literary and cultural gatherings where poets from across NWFP gathered and open-air Mushairas were held,”
commented Aftab Ahmad office bearer of Gandhara Hindko Board working for promotion and preservation of Hindko language and Hindkowan culture

The Gandhara Board, he continued, is arranging grand open-air gathering in different parks as part of its regular activity with the objective of reviving the old practice, Aftab added.

Dr. Adil Zareef, Executive Director Sarhad Conservation Network (SCN), an NGO working for conservation of nature, stresses for active lobbying by civil societies for preservation of existing gardens.

Peshawar, he said, had been the cradle of civilizations and a centre for trade for the past 2000 years. Now its dwellers have lost the old beautiful city, creating a huge social and cultural vacuum.

He said stress should be laid on preservation of existing gardens including Wazir Bagh, Shahi Bagh, Dabgari garden, Jinnah Park, Khalid Bin Walid Park, Kushal Bagh and others.

District Nazim Peshawar, Haji Ghulam Ali said that apart from rapid increase in population, influx of Afghan refugees destroyed Peshawar gardens. He said arrival of millions of Afghan refugees caused unprecedented urbanization in the city.

He informed that district government is focusing on reviving of the lost heritage of Peshawar city. He said he has also requested the archaeologists and environmentalists for guidance in this regard.

The district government is presently working on restoration of old gates and historic city wall, he said and added that district government is restoring the main green belt of Peshawar along G.T road and would soon reopen the historic Shakhi Chasma for Peshawarites.

Saving trees in Lahore

Some years back, in Shahbaz Sharif's time, thousands of trees in Lahore had to be cut to make way for a citywide road-widening project. When that happened, some concerned citizens did stand up and made some noise about it but it all came to naught. The argument used then was that widening of the roads was imperative to the city's growth in that it was necessary to accommodate Lahore's growing traffic. A similar situation has arisen in Lahore now. There are plans to widen the city's famed Canal Road and this, according to Punjab environment department's own survey, over 3,600 trees along the canal will have to be cut. This is a conservative estimate at best because it does not include those trees that may have to give way permanently because of the movement of heavy machinery and other equipment that will be needed for the project. Notwithstanding the fact that this figure is almost four times higher than that claimed initially by the province's communication and works department, the issue takes one back to the whole development versus environment debate. It also serves to highlight the undemocratic and non-transparent way in which projects that ostensibly seek to provide citizens more amenities and services are planned and implemented.

For starters, why was no environmental impact assessment (EIA) -- a legal requirement under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act of 1997-- done for the planned road-widening project? Is it because such a thing is considered frivolous and a time-wasting exercise or because the government knew that publicity of the trees being cut would raise a public furore? (One feels that it may well be a bit of both.) Why could not the government take into consideration the views of independent urban planners and conservationists when it drew these plans? Surely, they would know that the tree-lined Canal Road (or simply 'The Canal' in local parlance) is an indelible part of Lahore, that the trees along it are a part, so to speak, of the city's collective subconscious. Of course, one is not saying that no development should be done simply because no trees must be cut but rather that a more holistic approach needs to be taken of development. Government planners should first understand that they don't always have all the answers to everything and hence should consider the views of civil society. In this particular case, the heavens would not have fallen if the department concerned had invited the views of any concerned citizens or taken expert assistance from independent conservationists and urban planners. Also, officialdom needs to be told that some citizens -- and there are quite a few of them -- actually like trees as much as others like wide roads. In fact, one view of this whole road-widening issue is that the poor and marginalised sections of society, for whom the trees provided welcome relief in terms of shade, have been totally sidelined since wider roads certainly are not needed when one's mode of transportation is one's own feet or, at best, a motorcycle.

A well-meaning group of citizens has already organised a first rally against the planned project. Unfortunately, residents of most urban centres in Pakistan are helpless in the face of haphazard and unplanned city development taking place in their midst. This all is usually super-imposed on them from above by authorities that tend to completely ignore the views of the public and typically base their plans on the whims of some individual, usually holding high office. A balance between the demands brought on by Lahore's development imperatives and the right of its residents to live in environment-friendly surroundings needs to be struck. At the very least, the EIA should be conducted by the government and made public.

The News


Kakrali is an ancient village located in Tehsil Kharian, in the Gujrat District of Pakistan. It is about 25 Kilometers from the city of Kharian and 35 Kilometers from Gujrat. Kakrali is the Punjabi word derived from Kikar Tree. The majority of inhabitants of village are Jatts. Also majority of the people work out of the country.

Kakrali is a village that is very old, and it has a Hindu temple almost near the river ¨bhandar¨, as it is called by the locals. The river ¨bhandar¨ comes from the high mountains in northern Pakistan, so in summer time the people who live in Kakrali can still feel the cold weather, which is actually from melting ice. Near the lake ¨Bhander¨ is a large area with football, 4 cricket pitches and a volleyball pitch. This ground is filled with children and adults in the summer and winter time.

There is a boys high school in kakrali which was established before partition of subcontinent.High quality education had remained a tradition of this school.

Monday, January 14, 2008

From the past: Cutting Trees

KARACHI - April 22: City government workers cut down trees on University Road on Sunday, being observed globally as the Earth Day. Trees are being felled also in other parts of the city.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The archaeological excavations undertaken in the northern Kafirkot fortress in northern Pakistan this winter (1997) by Michael W. Meister and his colleagues Professors Abdur Rehman and Farid Khan of the Pakistan Heritage Society have revealed a completely unknown new temple .

Along the Indus river and in the Salt Range mountains, temples dating from the sixth to the early eleventh century survive in upper Pakistan. A joint project with Professors Abdur Rehman, past Chairman of the Department of Archaeology, University of Peshawar, and Farid Khan, founder of the Pakistan Heritage Society, has begun to analyse and document these important monuments in the history of South Asian temple architecture with funding from the University of Pennsylvania. Two seasons of excavation have been carried out at the site of North Kafirkot.

Further archaeological work and exploration was begun at the Salt-Range site of Amb, in association with the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of the Punjab.

The most remarkable features of this new structure are the bold cusped niches in the first-phase platform that were revealed when part of the fabric of the second-phase construction was taken away. Excavations continue.

Salt Range Temples


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