The country’s first botanical garden, established more than a decade ago for research purposes and preservation of plants, at one of the largest universities in the country, is now in a state of ruin due to inattention and lack of funds.
Back in 2005, the Higher Education Commission (HEC), approved the addition of a botanical garden at the University of Karachi, spread over several acres, at a cost of Rs 30 million.
Two years later, in September of 2007, the project was inaugurated and its initial years were dedicated to preservation of alpine plants, medicinal plants, and halophytes; while a separate section was created for planting fruit bearing trees. Presently, the garden resembles a wild tree forest.
The Express Tribune asked the in-charge, Dr Roohi Bano, about the miserable state of the garden, to which she replied that she had only recently assumed her post but was aware of the problems. “I have already written a detailed letter to the administration highlighting the problems related to the botanical garden. The facility is clearly facing a funding crisis,” Dr Bano informed. While it remains to be seen if Dr Bano’s concerns will be addressed, the plant conservation area of the garden is in a harrowing condition. The conservation area was temperature controlled and used to house plants brought in from remote areas of the country; presently, the air conditioning and generators installed for it have become inoperable due to lack of maintenance and the electricity supply has been cut off.
Resultantly, the plants are long gone and a broken cast iron structure is the sole reminder of what used to exist. Since the project was the initiative of renowned botanical researcher and former Vice-Chancellor (VC) of University of Karachi Professor Dr Muhammad Qaiser, the Express Tribune asked him about the botanical garden’s decline. “These old things are not properly taken care of by the concerned officials,” Dr Qaiser remarked. The current VC of the university, Professor Dr Khalid Iraqi, when asked about the garden’s miserable state, replied that the grant received for such projects does not include long-term upkeep. “The HEC often gives a one-time grant for scientific and research projects, such as the botanical garden, which is only sufficient for the initial functioning of the project,” the VC explained.
Dr Iraqi was of the view that there should be a separate grant for continuing research which is not included in the PC-1 of projects such as the garden. “Not having such a separate grant means that the burden of running the project falls on the university; and running such projects is extremely challenging for the varsity’s administration due to the current financial situation,” said Dr Iraqi while talking to The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2022.