Karachi: Denso Hall Rahguzar Landscaped Walking Street, the brainchild of Yasmeen Lari, CEO Heritage Foundation of Pakistan was initiated earlier today at Marriott Road. The project, comprising the pedestrianisation of Marriott Road is a collaborative effort of Heritage Foundation, D. C South, KE, Spiritual Chords and Dadabhoy Foundation.
Rotary Club Karachi New Central and Starlinks PR joined hands with Heritage Foundation in 2019 to undertake the cleaning of Denso Hall and create awareness about the need for and proposal to pedestrianise Marriott Road. For four Sundays they gathered on Marriott Road to hold street festivals, clean the heritage sites on the street, and win the confidence of stakeholders.
The result of persistent efforts over two years, which included the digging and deep cleaning of 800-feet-long specially designed trenches in order to remove visually disrupting overhead hanging electrical and other cables and placing them there, and removal of extraneous material on footpaths, shops and pavements, is the initiation of the 400-foot-long low-carbon eco-enclave consisting of pathways lined with terracotta cobbles along with four groves of Miyawaki forests and three foods courts in the middle.
The purpose of the event today was to show the world that work at Marriott Road is in full swing and hopefully will be completed in two months. While the cost of pedestrianizing the street has so far solely been borne by Heritage Foundation through their own donors, it is now hoped that crowd-sourcing will see the completion of the walking trail as envisioned by Lari, linking Custom House in the west to Empress Market in the east, thus providing an opportunity for Karachiites to take ownership of their city.
The programme began with tree plantation in forest no. 2 by those who were present, including shopkeepers. Famous theatre actor and host Arif Bahalim conducted the proceedings of the day and invited Shanaz Ramzi Director Heritage Foundation of Pakistan and Charter President Rotary Club Karachi -New Central to give a welcome address and introduce the project. Speaking on the occasion Ramzi said “For over a year a team of 35 former beggars, especially women, have been engaged in the arduous task of hand-crafting terracotta pavers at the Foundation’s Zero Carbon Campus near Makli World Heritage site. The production of terracotta, bamboo and stone elements, along with work at Marriott Road site, has provided livelihood to scores of other artisans over several months.”
Lari then briefed the gathering comprising government officials, media, stakeholders and the city’s concerned citizens and said “The trails have been designed to mitigate the negative impact of densification and environmental degradation in Karachi’s historic core. The original overcrowded, encroached and garbage-filled Marriott Road is being transformed into pollution-free pedestrianised street for the enjoyment of shoppers. On Sundays the rahguzar is designed to transform into a cultural activity area presenting street theatre, music, book reading and craft stalls that will portray Karachi’s dynamism and diversity as a tourism venue. With the cooperation of the owners, 12 historic buildings that line the two sides of the street will be restored to redeem Karachi’s original character.” Also speaking on the occasion were the thrilled shopkeepers who had never seen their street so clean before and were full of gratitude and praise for the effort. Maryam Pardesi, representative of Spiritual Chords and Dadabhoy Foundation then expressed her delight at being partners of such a history-making event. D.C. South, Irshad Ali Sodhar offered his continued support and expressed his determination to see the project through to its completion of the entire walking trail. Chief guest, Commissioner Karachi, Navid Ahmed Shaikh reinforced Sindh government’s commitment to collaborate in fulfilling Lari’s vision.
Denso Hall Rahguzar presents a unique example of collaboration between civil society and government organizations along with efforts of other stakeholders such as shopkeepers. It demonstrates how an area ridden with complex issues could be transformed through collaborative effort without resorting to public funds. Any funds raised through sponsorships will be utilized for the creation of the next eco-enclave in the area.