During travels abroad, one of my lasting impressions is how the people responsible for adorning roads and parks with go about their duty with a pragmatically marvellous sense of harmony and aesthetics. Even as a total stranger in a foreign city, I have had little or no problems with finding my way around making use of street and traffic signs.

When I first came to live in Islamabad during the early nineteen seventies, it was evident that the city’s horticulture was in the hands of someone, who knew what he or she was doing. I saw stands of pines being planted along with magnificent silver oaks and ‘Chinar’. It was during the last two decades that things began to take a wrong turn. Today, any gardening enthusiast would be horrified at how the Federal

Capital is remorselessly filled with flora that has no business to be here.

It appears that ‘experts’ in the Capital City’s horticulture department have academic qualifications, but lack the aesthetics without which, their degrees are, but a mere scrap of paper. What these people need to understand is that anything they grow needs to resonate with the city’s natural landscape, the weather and local flora. For example, I am at a loss to understand as to why these so called professionals (belonging to both government and private projects) insist on planting bottle palms and date palms along roads. I often wonder if they have ever stood back and looked at their handiwork to see how these members of the plant family clash with the beautiful pine clad hilly backdrop of the city and its weather.

Signposts are designed to make life ‘intelligently’ easier for people, but even this simple function is beyond the capability of the wise men in the city administration. Take for example a board that has been put up quite some distance before one approaches the causeway on Korang Road from the direction of Bani Gala warning traffic that the causeway is closed due to flash flooding and that vehicles should take a detour. This sign has been there for years and has prompted non-local traffic to inconveniently divert through roads that are a nightmare of pits and potholes, even though the causeway is open at all times, except during heavy down pours.

Just a day ago, I wanted to reach a house in one of the newer sectors that lies in close proximity of the wedding marquis complex near to Golra. I was armed with the proud claim that no one could get lost in Islamabad because of its sectoral layout, but the CDA bested me on this one and I was brought down to earth with a resounding thud. Though I had the address, I found that the subsectors and streets were randomly and in some cases incompletely named and numbered. Angry (and humbled because of my boast), it took a good part of an hour to zigzag through the sector asking my way from locals, till I reached my destination. My feelings at the time were those of someone, who has just been through a maze designed by one of the three characters in the ‘Gotham’ story.

In an ongoing clean up action, the authorities are closing down businesses from residential areas of the Federal Capital. While this action is long overdue, it raises a vital question. Why were these businesses allowed to function in residential sectors in the first instance and why did the concerned authorities keep their eyes averted as these concerns grew and expanded over the years? If I was the one laying down the law now, I would also charge and prosecute the administration, which allowed these premises to be misused. Perhaps ‘wisdom’ dawned on these authorities, when some VIP got effected by the lack of privacy and inconvenience that these business were causing - but then, its “better late than never”.

I am one hundred percent sure that the contents of this week’s tirade will fall on deaf ears. The ‘Wise Men of Gotham’ will continue to go about their business drawing huge perks, while government horticulturists will bend their backs putting in more date palms and refusing to learn a trick or two from earth’s most prolific landscape artist - nature itself.