Islamabad: Planned construction projects in the popular hilly areas of Margalla Hills National Park may badly affect the natural character of the environment, which is one of the main features of the capital city.
Popularity of a food outlet constructed at Pir Sohawa sometime back was a success story, which prompted other investors to go for such projects, keeping in view the growing interest of the local visitors.
President Margalla Hills Society Roedad Khan claimed that the existing laws do not allow the construction of hotels, motels, villas or food outlets in the areas, designated as National Park in 1980. He said the people living in the areas of the National Park, having their own lands, could not be relocated unless they are provided with alternative options that are acceptable to them. “But under the existing laws, no one can even root out a single tree or shift a stone to another place from its original location,” he said.
Margalla Hills National Park comprises Margalla Range (12,605 ha), Rawal Lake, and Shakarparian Sports & Cultural Complex. The hill range stands at an elevation of 685 metres at the western end and 1,604 metres on its east. The rock formations are 40 million years old, and fossils of marine life abound everywhere, bearing eloquent testimony that Margalla Hills were at one time under the sea.
Roedad Khan said the threat of stone crushing has been minimised to a great extent after a consistent struggle but feared that ‘anti-environment’ forces would continue to give a tough time to the environment-loving people of the city. He said the local people, also comprising students from schools and colleges, staged protest campaigns that resulted in an end to stone crushing in Shahdara, Kalinjar, Sinyari and Shah Allah Ditta valleys. Now, he said, there is only one spot near the Nicholson Monument where stone crushing still continues, “But we are waiting for the verdict, as the case is pending with the court of law,” he said.
He appreciated the efforts of providing the facility of gas cylinders to the local people living in the National Park area, saying it would help reduce the cutting of trees, especially in the winter season.
Roedad said he has been wandering through the trails but never ever saw any forest guard despite the fact that these people are appointed by the concerned authorities to keep vigil over the activities in the National Park.
Referring to the proposed Margalla Tunnel project, he said it is highly appreciable that Minister for Environment Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi formally stated on the floor of the House that he would oppose this project, as it might cause damage to the city’s natural environment. “I have brought the issue to the notice of the parliamentarians and even have been trying to meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in this respect,” he said.
The government has declared 2009 as the year of environment and there must be visible efforts to protect the natural beauty at any cost. Roedad said the Margalla Hills Society would hold a tree plantation campaign on February 28 in coordination with local non-governmental organisations and educational
institutions to plant thousands of saplings in the National Park.