University students, volunteers remove garbage from Trail-5

Zubair Qureshi

More than 100 university students and nature lovers turned to Margalla Hills on an off-day for a cleanup operation.

They removed trash from the Trail-5, picked empty cans, vessels, bottles, tissue papers and other garbage as part of a regular community service campaign carried out by hikers, civil society members and university students.

The cleanup operation was jointly organized by a local volunteer group Development Communications network (Devcom-Pakistan) and Islamabad Wildlife Management board (IWM) in connection with the ongoing two-week long 12th Pakistan Mountain Festival. The Pakistan Mountain Festival is the annual flagship event of Devcom-Pakistan and commemorates the UN’s International Mountain Day (IMD) in December every year.

This year it is celebrating the day on December 11. Before the cleanup drive, the IWMB Chairman (Scientific Committee) ZB Mirza briefed the participants about the biological diversity and natural heritage of the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).

The national park has been quite neglected since it was established in 1980 despite the fact it is the third-largest national park in the world with an area of 17,386 hectares (42,960 acres) under the foothills of the Himalayas, said ZB Mirza.

The park’s fauna and flora and rich biodiversity have been affected recently by haphazard constructions and movement of vehicles more than its carrying capacity, said ZB Mirza, adding a number of initiatives have been undertaken to protect wildlife and biological diversity.

The students of Comsats University Islamabad Campus, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology (SZABIST) Islamabad Campus, GBC Council participated in the event.

Mirza urged the youth to respect diversity of species, and help manage wildlife and human beings live together. The park is rich in biodiversity, especially rich in Sino-Himalayan fauna, most notably gray goral, barking deer and the Leopard. Combined MHNP is home to around 600 plant species, 402 bird varieties, 38 mammals and 27 species of reptiles.

Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director and Founder of the Pakistan Mountain festival Munir Ahmed said the Margalla Hills National Park was increasingly becoming a focus of visitors and illegal constructions.

Munir said the government should encourage youth in environment-friendly outdoor pursuits.

It is good for their mental and physical health besides making them a responsible citizen. Several youth engagements are in pipeline for the 12th Pakistan Mountain Festival including 8th Pakistan Mountain Youth Forum and cultural shows, and a conference. We need to work out a joint action plan for the promotion of mountains and its communities, culture, art, and heritage instead of individual and scattered efforts, he said. Maryam, a university student was of the view that she regularly participated in the Margalla Hills clean-up drive as the hills are an asset of Islamabad and the federal capital is known across the world due to these iconic hills.