Have you ever wondered why Pakistan’s environment is on decline despite brilliant minds sitting at positions required for thinking, designing and regulating new and effective ways of environmental conservation? One plausible answer could be that it’s more talk less work, macro rather than micro approach, big promises and fewer accomplishments. The disconnect with the indigenous problems, ownership of surrounding environment and lack of concern about local planning that might have a negative impact on the overall conservation practices. Fancy jargons, popular themes and global issues drive movements rather than local needs and concerns over destruction in the name of development. This also reflects the lack of profound understanding of how international commitments and issues relate back home and are translated at national level. Climate change is not a global but a local issue. If we are unable to save our surrounding environment and take ownership then fancy meetings and research won’t pay off. If you don’t demand it, you don’t get it! Embassy road (also known as Attaturk Avenue) expansion in Islamabad is one such project that reflects the above mentioned lacunas and the disconnect in policy and practice. Dualisation of embassy road was initiated in October 2017. As soon as the felling of decades old trees started, the citizens and also mainstream electronic media became active on the subject and criticized the project that was having toll on the urban forest. The project was stopped not by masses but by the action of a few. Some conscious members of civil society and TV anchors pushed for ecological justice. The issue was taken up by the then chairperson of Standing Committee on Climate Change Malik Muhammad Uzair Khan and honorable Chief Justice Saqib Nisar. There was a petition filed in the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan by citizens. Soon Environment Protection Agency (EPA) came forward declaring the project not approved as it failed to address objections raised as part of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process. The rebuttal from the public in general was so strong that the project was stopped however Capital Development Authority (CDA) kept on pushing for approval. Twelve months down the road CDA has been permitted to dualise or widen the Attaturk Avenue by the concerned authorities. The decision doesn’t help answer the issues and flaws pertaining to the process involved in execution of the project but a green signal was given based on pledges by CDA to address the objections put forward by EPA. Some trees have also been planted. Who knows what keeps the interest of authorities intact in expanding and dualising a road that is mostly car free with scant movement. Only during office hours one sees a cluster of cars at the traffic signal. The locals claim that they were not consulted or heard of public hearing for the project. The annexure of project’s EIA has interviews of taxi drivers and only one resident. This raises questions on the overall EIA process. Minutes of public hearing have not been made public till to date. Alternative route, which ironically passes near the climate change ministry, has been opened along with the constitutional avenue after years of being blocked for red zone security. All the more reason for dropping the idea of dualisation and the very fact that it is not being dropped raises concerns over transparency of the project. This is not just one road but it is yet another nail in the coffin that will bury the clean future of this country, thus leaving the next generation in a desperate situation. Help stop Embassy road’s unnecessary expansion that is shrinking open space and turning green into grey If the road is being dualised for people then why is the voice of the same public not being heard? There was no public debate on whether or not this road needs dualisation. Contrary to this the public is demanding no expansion and some people went to court, others protested or atleast raised voice on social media. As social media activism was all they could do to satisfy their conscience. Similar practices have been adopted in many other projects around the capital city. Master plan was violated however the document remains a highlight secretive document that atleast I haven’t seen in my life time despite being given reference to it in several meetings and public hearings. Embassy road or Attaturk avenue dualisation is also declared as part of the original master plan however no one ever produced it. World over owing to the threat of climate change masses are changing their lifestyle and in developed countries rather than expansion of roads; public transport is being made efficient. Experts also say that widening of roads is not a solution to resolve traffic problem rather it is the mode of mobility that requires a shift. More cars on roads cause air pollution and Pakistani cities have been topping the list of cities with highest levels of SMOG and air pollution in last few years. Trees and open land is required to maintain ground water levels. Such practices are not sustainable for any city and require a more sustainable solution. Current government has a strong agenda on greening Pakistan by planting 10 million trees. My recommendation to the government would be to also concentrate on the old trees which are becoming victim of infrastructure projects. The government has left a green footprint in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa hence many hopes are hooked on to this government. It is expected that the current government will try to consider the case of dualisation of embassy road and stop its mass destruction which will reverse all its efforts of better environment and good health. This is not just one road but it’s yet another nail in the coffin that will bury the clean future of this country thus leaving the next generation in desperate situation. Let this not be the new normal for you and your kids. Speak up before it’s too late. We can still undo it. Help stop Embassy road’s unnecessary expansion that is shrinking open space and turning green into grey. Let not this expansion narrow your space to breath. The writer is a Policy Researcher Published in Daily Times, October 5th 2018.