Increasing number of visitors, fires threat to Margallah hills habitat


The increasing number of visitors, frequent fires and growing population inside and around the Margallah Hills National Park is threatening its habitat, biodiversity and scenic beauty. According to sources of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) which takes care of the park, the increasing number of visitors to the national park contribute towards habitat degradation, pollution and biodiversity disturbance.
A two-lane metalled road, from Islamabad to Daman-e-koh, Pir Sohawa, and the Makhnial range, and the installation of roadside lights in the park has increased traffic— and subsequently air and noise pollution. This increasing traffic and the roadside lights which are not switched off till midnight restrict the movement of animals and disturb their night life patterns.
Fires are a fairly common occurrence in the Margallah Hills and require significant expenditure and manpower to extinguish. About 85 cent of these fires occur during the dry May-June period preceding the monsoon rains and are all caused by people. One of the main causes of forest fires is visitors’ negligence. Usually visitors throw cigarettes or do not completely extinguish fire after cooking which leads to forest fires. IWMB sources say when members of local community are fined or punished for illegal activities, they get involved in starting forest fires as revenge against authorities.
The local community intentionally sets fires in the forest so they can collect dry wood after the fire is put out as heavy fines can be imposed on cutting green trees. There are over 30 settlements in and immediately around the periphery of the National Park. The total population in the settlements in national park is close to 70,000. The largest settlement is in Nurpur with a population of just over 15,000 persons, followed by Chauntra with 12,000, and Kot Hathial, Gokena, Talhar and Shah Allah Dita with about 9,000 persons each. According to conservationists, people should not spread litter, do not light fires, avoid smoking and refrain from disturbing the wildlife. There are two famous stories about the name of the area. According to one, Margallah is a combination of two words –
Mar means snake and Galla means herd. Legend has it that there were many snakes in the Margallah Hills, hence the name. According to another story the hills are named after a murderous gang that used to rule this area.—APP

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