LAHORE: More and more citizens of all age groups turn to the Lahore Canal on Sundays as it provides a free source of recreation during the simmering summers.

The Canal takes on a festive look every Sunday as young men and families carrying snacks and lunch gather along the Canal to get relief from the heat on cool grass under shady trees. The green belts across the adjoining roads turn into public parks where carefree children are seen playing various sports irrespective of the heat.

During the sizzling summers of Lahore, the Canal provides a vital refuge to the weather- beaten and heat-tormented Lahore citizens. With the recent wave of power shortage and the resultant load shedding, the Canal water is a blessing in disguise and groups of people are seen perched on the bank of the Canal with their feet in the cool water of the Canal while the children are mostly seen swimming in it. “The city of Lahore is a shadow of its past serene natural environment. Public parks can do little to beat the heat of the harsh summers. The need is to develop the Canal banks into picnic spots so that the people can benefit from it,” said Muhammad Asif Malik, a section officer and resident of Wahdat Colony.

The Canal’s bank also provides free swimming facilities to the under-privileged youth of Lahore while the club pools and water parks are either insufficient or too costly for people.

Muhammad Irfan, 15, said he loved swimming in the Canal water every Sunday. He said instead of imposing a ban on swimming in the Canal and making it a prohibited area for the public, the government should build water parks along it so that children could enjoy swimming facilities at cheap rates.

Scenes: Apart from playing its historic role of a sustainer, the Canal also nourishes the poor as well as the rich. Women washing their clothes, rickshaw drivers cleaning the vehicles free of cost and under-privileged children making money by selling different articles to the visitors are commonly seen along the Canal bank.

The Canal also adds to the biodiversity of Lahore by supporting thousands of trees.

Dr ZB Mirza, a renowned environmentalist, said these trees are vital for producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide in the city and added that the trees along the Canal are home to several species of birds.

The Canal hosts thousands of visitors who return to their houses replenished and revitalised as the sun sets every day and lets the city of Lahore heave a sigh of relief after a hot summer day.