Essa Khan, 45, resides in the city of Kundian. He has lived in the city for the past 20 years, about four kilometres (km) from the Kundian Chowk. Essa and his family make a living by crushing sugarcane, extracting juice, and processing sugarcane jaggery (gur) at Kundian Mor. On average, they earn around seven hundred rupees daily through this work, which sustains their household expenses.
His family consists of six individuals, including four children. His location has a planned construction project for a park nearby. A former prime minister laid the foundation stone for this park in 2021, bringing Essa great joy. He was happy due to the anticipation of potential progress in his business as the park visitors would increase the demand for his products, including selling sugarcane jaggery near the park.
However, the park’s construction has not been completed yet, leading to dashed hopes for Essa Khan regarding business growth.
Kundian, a densely populated area with a population of 1.5 million, is the largest urban locality in the district after the city of Mianwali. However, despite its size, there are no recreational facilities available here.
A connecting road, MM Road, stretches from Mianwali towards Muzaffargarh, ten km from Kundian in the west. The city is located four km away from here, and towards the east, it marks the beginning of the old forest area known as Kundian Plantation. This junction on the road is referred to as Kundian Mor.
Out of the 20,000 acres of land owned by the Forest Department here, the Punjab government had decided to construct a park on 50 acres. According to PC-1, the estimated cost for the park’s construction was approximately 235.5 million rupees. However, only 176.4 million rupees were allocated for it.
In the park, grass segments will be laid out on ten acres of land. Twenty acres will be dedicated to trees and plants, while one acre is allocated for planting roses and jasmine flowers. Furthermore, establishing a botanical garden on ten acres is also part of this project, which will benefit the general public and botanical students.
According to the project details, the park will feature 40 varieties of flowers and plants. There will be a play area, public restrooms, suitable seating for visitors, and provision of drinking water and other essential amenities.
The project includes a tourist information centre, a food court, four kiosks, and five picnic sheds. Parking area, walkways, boundary walls, and a 6,000-foot jogging track with seven workout stations are also part of it, along with staff quarters and other constructions.
The Punjab Forest Department shared the good news that this park, which will enhance the beauty of Kundian, will also create employment opportunities for 10,848 residents.
Both the construction and management of the park have been entrusted to the Forest Department. The Divisional Forest Officer for Kundian has been appointed as the project’s focal person, and the park’s completion was scheduled for June 30, 2023.
According to the project’s plan, the park was supposed to be opened to the public two months ago. However, this couldn’t be achieved. Although its boundary walls and main gate are complete, there is no such thing as a park inside its premises, and everywhere, tiles, cement, and wires are scattered.
Thirty-year-old Muhammad Din also resides in Kundian. He had established a shop for food and beverages at Kundian Mor around a year and a half ago, but it didn’t succeed, and now he works as a labourer.
Muhammad Din explains that there is some influx of travellers during the daytime at Kundian Mor. However, it becomes deserted as the evening sets in, and hardly any traveller gets off here. All the buses and wagons unload passengers about a km away at the Almasum Adda, in front of the Kundian Railway Station.
He says his business was declining daily, leading him to close his shop. “Now that the park will be built, there will be an increase in activity here. The arrival of tourists will benefit street vendors with pushcarts, and I will also consider reopening their shops.”
The team from the Directorate General Monitoring and Evaluation of the Planning and Development Board inspected the park’s construction and submitted their report to the authorities on May 15, 2023.
The report, sent to the Secretary of Finance and Secretary of Forest, Wildlife, and Fisheries, stated that 80 per cent of the work on the park should have been completed in April, but that couldn’t happen, and only 42.23 per cent of the allocated funds for the project during the last fiscal year have been utilised.
According to the report, the pace of work on the project is very slow. Scattered electrical wires on the ground could pose a danger to the labourers.
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Faisal Khan is a botany student at Sargodha University. He states that this park is highly important from an educational standpoint because, according to the project, there will be flowering plants in the botanical garden and a variety of local plants. This could become a significant research centre for botany students.
Former Minister of Forests Sabtain Khan mentions that the Forest Park Kundian will add to the area’s beauty. Unfortunately, governments don’t often get the opportunity to complete their terms, which results in developmental projects falling victim to the shifting political landscape.
SDO Kundian, Asif Nadim, explains that the pace of work slowed down due to the provincial assembly dissolution. Liberty Park requires 14 employees, including gardeners and other staff. However, in January, when the Punjab Assembly dissolved, the Election Commission imposed a ban on hiring, which resulted in the work not being completed within the stipulated time.
He claims that 60 per cent of the park’s work has been done. However, he acknowledges that the information centre, tiling, botanical garden, play area, and landscaping remain incomplete.
The sub-charge engineer for construction works, Bashir Ahmed, also corroborates this. He states that the park’s construction could have been completed promptly if timely personnel resources were available.
Published on 31 Aug 2023