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Goodbye Argentina Park!

Citizens of Islamabad voice concerns over plans to use the land of historic Argentina Park for hospital extension

Goodbye Argentina Park!
A board placed at the park shows allotment of the land to Polyclinic Hospital. — Photo by the writer

While planning new towns, the planners particularly earmark convenient places for parks, schools, hospitals and markets all around the residential localities for the benefit of the residents. Parks are the best places to visit to relax. Parks offer the best environment where kids can play around, young ones can walk or jog, and elders can sit, relax or just watch the children play.

Argentina Park is one such recreational spot planned at the heart of the city in sector G-6 of the federal capital. The Capital Development Authority established the park in cooperation with the government of Argentine. Media reports suggest that Argentina Park was inaugurated on May 23, 1973 at the initiative of President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as an expression of thanks for Argentina’s support extended to Pakistan at the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations General Assembly against the backdrop of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan.

The Polyclinic Hospital was built in 1966 whereas the Argentina Park was developed for the specific purpose of providing a green and healthy environment to the people of the area, and the patients and those visiting the patients in the hospital to relax.

Argentina Park not only enriches the lives of its visitors but also caters to their recreational needs, providing amenities that add beauty and inspiration to the city.

Ironically, the park has been handed over to the adjacent Federal Government Services Hospital well known as Polyclinic Hospital for its expansion. The hospital has planned to construct five-storey 1100 beds hospital over 2.54 acres of the Argentina Park in order to cater to rising patient load.

“If the park is eliminated, it will deprive the people and families especially children in general and the patients and their attendants of their right to physical exercise, morning walk and to relax and enjoy clean oxygen-laden air,” said Shahbaz Malik, a regular visitor to the park.

Abdul Rehman, playing cards at the park, regretted that with the construction of the hospital block, green belts of the open park area, plants and trees would be destroyed depriving general public of the open air, clean environment and fresh atmosphere thus creating an environment issue.

Although hospitals are necessary in a welfare state, recreational facilities like parks and playgrounds are equally essential for physical and mental growth and fitness of the people. Ever since G-6 sector’s development in the early 1960s, Argentina Park was created to meet the recreational needs of the area residents in line with the parameters of the Islamabad’s Master Plan.

“Parks add value and pride to a city,” said Syed Ali Abbas, “and play a major role in immensely improving the quality of life of the residents. Parks play a great role in improving the health and well-being of citizens; they provide recreation, beauty and serve as a showplace for visitors and citizens, generating much pride among the dwellers of cities where they are located,” he said.

Abbas, a lawyer by profession, further said that though he was in favour of the extension of the hospital it would be better had some other piece of land been chosen for it. “If we continue construction work in parks, Islamabad will lose its greenery and never be called ‘Islamabad — the beautiful’ any longer,” he said.

Giving a novel idea, Samiullah, a teacher in a federal government school, said that instead of destroying the park, the government should construct a new bigger hospital near the Sports Complex and the hospital building should be converted into a women university. “It seems illogical that constructing a small, congested hospital near the existing one would be the only solution,” Samiullah remarked.

Raja Mustaneer, a resident of sector G-6, said that Islamabad has some of the best parks and green areas, both natural and man-made, but Argentina Park has its own serenity. It caters to all segments of society in general and the nearby residents in particular, he said.

“Argentina Park not only enriches the lives of its visitors but also caters to their recreational needs, providing amenities that add beauty and inspiration to the city. Islooites have the good fortune of living in an area where they have easy access to the park,” observed Rai Riaz, a government servant at a nearby ministry office.

Munsif Khan, a resident of G-6, told this scribe that he was surprised that the park has been handed over to the Polyclinic Hospital. “Any decision if already taken is not a divine rule and can be revised. The ministry concerned should disallow utilising Argentina Park land for the hospital expansion,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, the federal capital currently has a concentration of hospitals in the ‘G’ sectors while over the years the city has seen considerable expansion on its western and southern fringes, with the construction of hundreds and thousands of new homes in dozens of new housing societies. In view of shortage of hospitals, the new projects will help in providing necessary health facilities to the citizens.

Nevertheless, under the Polyclinic extension plan, the new hospital will have management information system, critical care services, clinical departments, latest diagnostic facilities, specialised tertiary care and fully computerised investigation system. The proposed project also envisages neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, MRI and a state-of-the-art operation theatre besides a helipad supported emergency services in addition to modern facilities for the disabled and senior citizens.

The construction at the site of the current hospital would continue in phase-wise so that hospital working might not be affected at any stage. A car parking for hospital’s vehicles would be arranged in the basement while the visitors parking would be within the boundary walls.

Mohammad Saleem Shahid

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