Abbottabad, As It Was Never Meant To Be

Posted on August 21, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Architecture, ATP Quiz, Environment
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Adil Najam

I must confess that the response to our last ATP Quiz came as a bit of a surprise.

The picture was taken in 2005 and is a birds-eye view of Abbottabad. As readers have pointed out, there is plenty wrong with it. What had prompted me to ask the question was that this picture was so very (and sadly) different from whatever Abbottabad is in the imagination of most Pakistanis.

Maybe it is only our imagination playing games with us, but even so, what a sad thought that is!

I found the picture at a flickr page dedicated to the heritage and environment of Abbottabad (and elsewhere) and full of amazing pictures of Abbottabad and of how the heritage and environment of this wonderful place is being squandered. At another time we should carry more pictures from that page here. but this particular photograph so Infuriated my sensibilities that I had to put it up. Yo can see a much bigger version of the picture here, and an annotated version here.

Of the three pictures above, the first (larger one) is of the Abbottabad that was, circa 1956. The second, of course, is the picture in the quiz (click for larger view) and the third, interestingly, is a view of something called Pine View Road. “Pine View”, indeed.

Abbottabad, at least in my constructed memory is meant to be serene, cool, quiet, quaint, peaceful, natural, fresh, nostalgic, clean, and so much more. This picture shows that the reality of Abbottabad today is anything but. Indeed, it is so much less.

Sad indeed. As the original title of the picture suggests a concrete jungle has replaced old pine and chinar forests of yore. And in the mind-boggling of urban sprawl. That people did not see roads is because the roads are small and encroached. That they did not see people may just be the scale of the photograph.

But what was most telling was how many people thought this was a picture from after an earthquake. With urban planning like this, who needs an earthquake to mess up a wonderful city!

21 responses to “Abbottabad, As It Was Never Meant To Be”

  1. Well, After Earthquake 2005 mass migration has been noted to urban areas of Abbottabad and Mansehra, I am sure that Abbottabad would not be same if tragedy hadn’t occurred.
    2ndly, I am in favor of theory that urban areas have been badly neglected and been not properly managed for planning since we are having “Nazims” in place of Municipal Committees.
    Owais Mughal: What makes you think like that?

  2. fuzair says:

    Truly sad what we have done to our environment. Combine domestic overpopulation with Afghan refugees with overall jahiliyat and this is what you get.

    I remember Abbotabad from 1978-79 when my father was posted nearby; it was still a charming place then but you could see the signs of the future….

  3. Ghazala Khan says:

    Hmm, I was wrong too.

  4. Farrukh says:

    You are right that does look like earthquake hit. It is sad what we have done to all our cities.

  5. ATP Fan says:

    I salute the creators of this website and posts like this.

    You take a simple picture of a city like Abbottabad that most of us would have ignored and you turn it into a meaningful and important conversation about what is happening to our cities, while other sites keep cribbing about politics and slogans and the nonsense we see from TV talk shows.

    Only ATP can do this and I thank you for it.

    What is happening to our cities is a real crisis. Part of this is population but even more it is attitude and values. That will make our future.

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