What is the issue infact?
The issue of razing one of the oldest nurseries in Pakistan gained international attention after the Model Town Society (MTS) got possession of the 28 kanal land with over 15,000 plants including many rare species some days back.
A local civil court had already issued contempt of court notices to the MTS office-bearers for displacing the owners who leased the nursery.
Professor Iftikhar Ahmed, Environmentalist and Botanical Gardens Consultant, California and Oregon, USA called the correspondent from USA and raised serious concern over the taking over of the Mian Brothers Nursery by the MTS, and said the government should intervene to rescue the plants.
“Unfortunately, I was recently informed that the Model Town Society again has attacked the garden. This time they are heavily armed, with some corrupt police and apparently they have blockaded the garden and they are readying to bulldoze the garden. It is difficult to understand how such an action can be allowed,” he said.
Talking about the project of establishing a research centre in Mian Brothers Nursery, he said, “We have great interest in protecting educational and natural resources. Here in the University of California, we have considered the possibility of establishing a cooperative environmental sciences programme with Pakistan, possibly using the garden as a site to establish an environmental education centre. While it is agreed that such a programme might be highly beneficial to the citizens of Pakistan, we were advised not to pursue such a venture until there is greater stability in Pakistan. The suggestion was made not because of local instability, but because of the obvious regional disruptions.”
He revealed that in the last meeting of Environment studies department of California State University, CHICO it was decided that the university would establish an environmental sciences and horticultural studies research centre in the Mian Brothers Nursery & Botanical Garden without destroying the environment of the existing garden and no trees would be cut for this purpose.
About the funds, he said the project would be run through NGOs and the university would give scholarships to the local students. The funds will be released not at once and will take time, he maintained.
He also revealed that the Director of the Environmental Department has also written letters to the Pakistan embassy in Washington DC and US embassy in Pakistan regarding the issue.
He said he also wrote letters to the Minister of Environment seeking his intervention into the issue.
He said the university would soon send a letter of support to the chief minister of Punjab and would request the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court as well as the Federal government in Pakistan to save this precious nursery and rare species of plants, which are at the brink of extinction.
Prof Iftikhar said that these kind of brutal activities against the local environment (destroying plants trees and green spaces) would negatively affect the local environment.
He added that such situations create more difficulties in attracting international environmental protection funds as well as educational funds to Pakistan.
On the other hand, when contacted, MTS President Col (Retd) Tahir Kardar said the MTS would not allow establishment of any such centre in the nursery. He said the land was the property of MTS and the society has already approved construction of a shopping mall at the site.
Here is a recent update on the Mian Brothers Nursery & Botanical Gardens.
The Model Town Society has shut off the electricity to the Nursery & Gardens. Everyday some person comes by to make threats or cause problems with the family running the Gardens. They have lost all their business and are unable to compost or make peat moss due to lack of electricity. At this time of year, this is very necessary to provide nutrients to the plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers currently growing on the land. The family cannot afford to live as their income is gone and the Gardens will not be able to produce the necessary flowers, shrubs, etc for sale in this Spring season. It is very sad indeed because they have been able to prove in court that they are legal lease owners of the land and have paid more than they owe in rent. Yet the Society continues to make life a living hell for these people who are trying hard to preserve Lahore’s botanical history. The lack of respect for the court system by the Society is a slap in the face to Pakistan. It is no wonder that Pakistan cannot move ahead in terms of law and order when the 10% rich people of Pakistan think they own every inch of Pakistani society and continue to squeeze every inch of life and blood from the poor.
History of Mian Brothers Nursery.
Originally the land was home to a mango fruit orchard but due to lack of maintenance and care, it was in miserable condition. Mian Bilal Ahmed and his father Mian Mohammed Latif then formed a nursery on this site and started a horticulture business. The Mian family of horticulturists is perhaps most well-known for the plantation of the trees along the canal that runs through Lahore, providing shade and beauty to the Lahore landscape. Additionally, they have been responsible for the upkeep of Shalimar Gardens during the glorious Mogul past and thereafter.
Prior to the 1950s, nurseries were of very low profile in Pakistan. However, Mian Bilal revolutionized nursery and botanical garden conservation in Pakistan. He developed ways and methods to enhance and uplift horticulture. In early 1970s he traveled to the Far East, Europe, and other countries and brought with him various species of plants and introduced them to Pakistan commercially. He participated in many exhibitions, workshops and proved his acumen. He also sent representatives from Pakistan to Holland, Manila, England and many other countries for the development of horticulture.
Perhaps, Mian Bilal is most well-known for introducing avocado in 1978 to Pakistan, a butter fruit miracle food for cancer patients. As time passed, Mian Brothers Nursery became symbol of quality and standard in horticulture business circles in Pakistan.
Coir peat is a product that is only prepared in tropical countries. Mian Bilal took initiative and developed techniques to make international standard Coir peat at very low prices. He also introduced high-quality, low priced Coir peat leaf mould to the market.
Mian Brothers Nursery has many rare species of plants which are not available in other parts of Pakistan. The nursery took initiative and grew the famous Alexandra palm in Pakistan. This was the first time anyone had ever tried to grow this palm tree in Pakistan.
Mian Bilal was responsible for introducing many new species and varieties of plants to Pakistan; he developed techniques to uplift local horticulture in Pakistan to international standards. Mr. Ahmed took the decrepit mango orchard and turned into a thriving nursery that is famous for its quality and standards in horticultural circles. Mian Bilal Ahmed’s name is still taken as a reference for the horticulture revolution in Pakistan.
Mian Brothers Nursery is situated in an area which is surrounded by pollution, noise and a jungle of concrete where the sky is always blurred with dust and harmful particles. However, Mian Brothers Nursery provides a buffer zone, protecting the surrounding environment from the harsh pollution.
Unfortunately, Mian Brothers Nursery is now in danger of extinction. The Model Town Society wants to demolish this green haven for their own personal monetary benefit. The society has tried to forcefully evacuate the land by very unfair means such as disconnecting the nursery’s electricity and water supply in the month of August 2004, the hottest month in Lahore, Pakistan. The disconnection lasted for one month and the water storage pond was not sufficient to supply 22 kanals of land with water. As a result, many rare and other plants died. The whole nursery became a jungle of dead and wilted plants; for Mian Brothers this was nothing less than a nightmare.
On 8th September 2004, the Model Town Society forcibly demolished the nursery’s acquired area used for storage, a mechanical shed and all other places built as shelters for various uses. The Society created a “ground zero”. It was a colossal loss to the nursery and immense disrespect to the man who revolutionized horticulture in Pakistan. The hard-earned achievement of more than three generations was ruined in front of their eyes. There were no helping hands to prevent the destruction or to help the Nursery in its time of dire need.
Mian Brothers Nursery is still standing despite the Society’s efforts; however, its future is uncertain. After the rampage by the Society, some rare plants and old trees remain and need attention of those who understand the value of green space, and what it offers to the citizens of Lahore and Pakistan.
As we all know life is filled with tradeoffs; but in this case, we are trading off a botanical garden with a bus station or some commercial building. These man-made structures will not provide a green haven for the public and buffer zone for the surrounding area from harmful pollutants. In fact they will harm the environment further.
In recent months, the Model Town Society have reinitiated their efforts to take control of Mian Brothers Nursery and surrounding businesses so that they may sell the land to commercial prospectors who are planning to construct bus stations, hotel businesses, and a MacDonalds restaurant. On January 23, 2007 representatives arrived at the Nursery to shut down their water supply. Will the people of Lahore and Pakistan let greedy prospectors with alliances to USA-owned businesses destroy the natural beauty of Lahore and create a stifling and polluted environment for future generations?
We do not want to tell our children that their beautiful green haven was traded off to a bus station that was the interest of a few rich and powerful people, and now it is only a historical botanical garden. It is now necessary to consider the benefits of preserving the nursery and botanical garden. The Society’s greed and neglect of the environment will cost our future generations their good health for centuries to come.
Mian Brothers Nursery is located on Ferozpur Road, in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan. Please support their efforts to save this green haven for future generations.