Islamabad’s beauty, wildlife threatened by annual vicious circle

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Citizens, hikers, civil society members & environmentalists call for probe into fire on Margalla Hills

Zubair Qureshi

Civil society, members of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), hikers and environmentalists have expressed their concerns and anger over the repeated incidents of fire over Margalla Hills. Fire at Margalla Hills takes place every year however this year frequency of such incidents is quite perturbing and alarming. While talking to Pakistan Observer at the sidelines of a protest in front of the National Press Club, they said the government should probe deeply the cause of fire at the Margalla Hills National Park and see whether it was erupted accidentally or there is some method in this madness.
The protesters shouted slogans against the city management and the Mayor who according to them was ignorant of the environmental disasters in the federal capital and demanded long-term strategy to put a permanent end to this annual disaster.
Manager Operations at IWMB, Uzma Saeed said recent fire was an extension of the major May 23 fire on the hills. “The fire has been raging for 11 days as fire incidents have been continuously reported in several areas of the park since May 23” IWMB’s 22 guards have been continuously engaged in extinguishing fire since then and suffered injuries as well, she added.
She said Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP), spread over 17,605 hectares, has witnessed multiple fire incidents, damaging the forest, killing wildlife and adding to air pollution. At least 10 fires have been reported this year and four in this month alone.
Speaking on the occasion, well-known environmentalist and Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed said the increasing deterioration of Margalla Hills National Park is the constitutional violation which is being done by the mafias in connivance of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad (MCI).
The protest was also attended by women and children who are deeply concerned over destruction of Pakistan’s natural beauty and resource. Holding placards that read “Stop Burning Margalla” and “Save Margalla Save Wildlife”, the protestors pointed out that Islamabad city authorities have failed to address the repeated fires and demanded an independent investigation on allegations that some fire are ignited intentionally to in order to punish the culprits.
Speaking on the occasion, an activist Tassadaq Malik demanded that IWMB should be given more authority and resources to cope with the challenges. He also claimed that there was sufficient evidence that fire was being intentionally ignited in an organized way, threatening the beauty and wildlife in the Margalla Hills National Park. Speakers highlighted that Margalla Hills are important in maintaining the ecological balance in the state of environment in Islamabad, therefore concerned authorities should in particular find the culprits responsible for the forest fire as majority of these fire incidents are intentional on behalf of the local communities mainly as a reaction against non-employment in the firefighting staff by CDA during the fire season starting from April to mid-July.

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