All relevant departments seem to have come to an agreement and a decision has been taken to establish the first cricket stadium in Islamabad. The project for building a stadium in the capital city has been pending for nearly a decade now.
According to reports, after several discussions, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has decided to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) allowing it to construct a cricket stadium in the city.
The MoU states that 35 acres of land at Shakarparian has been allotted to the PCB for the cricket stadium.
Following the completion of the project and the construction of the stadium, CDA will be entitled to 30 percent while the cricket board will get the remaining 70 percent of the earnings through domestic and international games at the stadium.
At present, there is no state-owned cricket stadium or academy in the capital city and all local matches or trainings are carried out at Diamond Club ground or any other club-owned stadiums.
Last year, CDA revoked the PCB’s lease for the construction of the stadium and refused to issue an NOC. In 2008, CDA had allotted 40 acres of land to the PCB for 33 years. PCB made no attempt to construct a stadium for the next five years which forced CDA to cancel the allotted land.
Initial plans suggested that the stadium will have a seating capacity of 50,000 people, a cricket academy, a five star hotel and other related facilities.
Valid Concerns Against the Stadium
The Islamabad cricket stadium has received a lot of negative criticism over the location of the project. Shakarparian is the central forest area of the capital and is often referred to as the “heart of the city”. With deforestation already taking its toll on the capital in the shape of increasing temperatures and dropping water levels, establishment of a stadium in the forest area has been rejected by the people.
Former ICC President, Ehsan Mani, has rejected the idea of a stadium in Islamabad. He says:
“Islamabad does not have a big population and doesn’t need a big stadium which will become a white elephant. [Large stadiums] are often economically nonviable and difficult to maintain.”
Mani believes that building a stadium in Shakarparian will cause irrevocable damage to the federal capital and immensely damage the environment. The former ICC official says that if the board wants a bigger stadium it should upgrade the Pindi Stadium which is just 6km away from Shakarparian.
The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) and the National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW) have opposed the project from the start. According to these organisations, the proposed site for the stadium falls in the jurisdiction of Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) and such a project is a violation of Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance 1979 as well as violation of the city’s master plan.
Construction of this stadium is said to result in the felling of thousands of trees and about 15 acres of shrubs, flora and other greenery.
It has been argued that there is already a sports centre in Shakarparian, which is rarely put to any use, therefore the idea of a new stadium is huge mistake considering the future of the city and the project funding (Rs. 2 billion) at stake.