Environmentalists urge judicial intervention to preserve MHNP Margalla Hills National Park under constant threat from encroachers, unplanned urbanization

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Zubair Qureshi

Environmental experts, activists and civil society representatives participating in a webinar on Friday solicited the Supreme Court of Pakistan to extend its Suo Moto on Monal restaurant and to all the interventions being taken in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).
Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) organized the webinar on the subject “Management of Margalla Hills National Park – the future scenario.”
There is no let-up in unfriendly practices in MHNP right under the nose of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad (MCI) while the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) has no authority to stop the undue interventions and encroachments.
They also urged Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam to take lead in policy reforms leading to amendments in the legal framework for the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).
Among those who spoke on the occasion included Board Member of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) Vaqar Zakria, Country Programme Manager UN Habitat Jawed Ali Khan, former DG Pak EPA Asif Shuja Khan, Biodiversity Exert and Former Deputy Director General WWF Pakistan Dr Ejaz Ahmed, Environment Lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam, Environmental Advocacy expert Mome Saleem, Dr Niofar Jamil and SDPI environmental expert Dr Imran Khallid.
A number of young environmentalists including Jamila Anam Rathore, Uzair Aftab, Sabah Iqbal, Aswa Waraich, Nadeem Aly also spoke on the occasion.
Vaqar Zakria said the National Park was being run on an ad hoc basis since its notification in 1979 under an Ordinance until a management board was formed a couple of years back. Still we don’t have any firm policy to run the Park, and more unfortunate is the absence of a management plan. The scope of work for the IWMB is intense and elaborate but very limited authority and technical staff and even lesser financial resources. Board members are working voluntary for the sake of their love for nature conservation. The staff is dedicated but less in number and lacks equipment and technical support to do what is actually required.
Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed urged the government to take swift action against the encroachments in violation of the Park’s sanctity and legal framework. Housing and construction mafia is very active all around while the responsible government departs are playing blind. They would wake up after the disastrous interventions. He urged an inventory of undue interventions should be prepared for the Supreme Court and higher authorities to take notice of environmental degradation in the Park.
He pointed out that the CDA. MCI and Pak EPA were invited to the webinar but they deliberately skipped to avoid the citizens’ criticism of their inefficient performance.