Profits over nature: UoP teachers decry move to sell chunks of K-P’s sole botanical garden

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The Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA) along with other employees’ associations vowed to oppose the allocation of hundreds of kanals of Azakhel Botanical Garden to private parties.

Addressing a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Wednesday, PUTA President Dr Fazl Nasir said university employees will not let go of their institution’s ownership right of the botanical garden and will raise the issue at every legal and political forum. He maintained the provincial government wanted to allot government land to a private enterprise which was very disheartening.

Nasir said land for the Azakhel Botanical Garden was leased to the University of Peshawar (UoP) for 99 years in 2005 by the district government of Nowshera, where the park is located. He said under the arrangement, the university took over the park’s management and was using it for academic purposes for the past nine years, adding a student recently completed his PhD degree on it.

Nasir lamented the provincial government was now allocating around 300 kanals from the total 677 to the Islamabad-based Air University. He said the government was planning to give a further 250-kanal piece of land to another private party to establish a technical college which was bound to leave UoP with only 100 kanals.

He said the UoP campus now accommodates four universities as four of its constituent colleges have turned into full-fledged universities, which has crowded the campus and left little land with the university as it is.

He said UoP had spent about Rs37 million from a federal government grant on the development of the botanical park which was also registered as the same with international organisations. “Allocation of this land to private parties is a violation of international law and Supreme Court directions regarding commercialisation of public spaces”.

He said the 2010 floods damaged the park and the university rehabilitated it from its own kitty.

He said the park also serves as a healthy recreation spot for the people of Nowshera and they will foil all attempts at “encroaching” the land.

He urged Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak to resolve the issue and warned that it would be the government’s fault in case the situation deteriorates.

The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association’s General Secretary Jamil Ahmed criticised the allocation of land to private parties and said official land cannot be given to a private party at the cost of government institutions.

A meeting of the UoP employees’ general body has been called on Thursday (today) to discuss the issue and decide the future course of action.

Source: The Express Tribune.