PESHAWAR, Oct 20: A huge amount of money spent on the conservation of Saiful Maluk Lake is likely to go down the drain due to the recent sacking of the staff recruited for the purpose by the government.
The scenic glacial reservoir at an altitude of 3,224 meters in Naran valley was declared a national park in 2003 under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Act, 1975, to conserve its beauty and ecology of the surroundings.
However, environmentalists say the relevant authorities have failed to protect the park against pollution.
The provincial wildlife department had launched the Rs7.7 million conservation project in 2009 and banned all kinds of commercial and other activities causing water and soil pollution.
Restriction was placed on boating in the lake under Section 144 to protect aquatic life.
Official sources said the conservation project was completed in June 2012 and 14 employees recruited for the management and conservation of the park on contractual basis had been laid off.
An official told Dawn on Saturday that the Saiful Maluk National Park had again been exposed to commercial activities after the withdrawal of the staff. He said the management had allowed only two rowing boats in the lake to entertain tourists, but the local people had now brought 35 boats, including motor boats, to the lake for commercial purposes.
According to reports, some people have encroached upon the protected area and established cabins. Solid waste collection bins have been damaged and the spot has littered with garbage which not only polluted the lake, but also affected its beauty.
Local officials blamed the district government for mismanagement and resumption of unlawful commercial activities in the protected area of the national park. They said that wildlife department had registered 44 complaints against law breakers during this summer, but the police did not take action against a single person.
“Influential people of the area are creating hindrances and their interference is posing serious threat to the park,” said a relevant official.
After relieving contractual staff, the wildlife department brought few employees to control the illegal activities, but they are helpless.
The official said the department had prepared five-year conservation plan for the park and asked the provincial government to provide permanent staff, including watchmen and sanitation workers.
But the government did not approve the statement of new expenditures (SNEs), he added.
Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan president Aftabur Rehman Rana told Dawn that the government had notified the area as a national park but it had not worked out the management plan for the area to regularise recreational and commercial activities.“Every national park needs a proper management plan to preserve its beauty and promote tourism in the protected area,” said Mr Rana whose organisation in collaboration with World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) has been taking volunteers to the lake for waste collection for proper disposal.
“The government acquired additional land, notified the park as protected site, but did not prepare the management plan to restrict illegal activities,” he said, adding that littering was a major threat for the lake.
He said 2,500 to 3,000 people visited the lake in tourism season daily and left behind organic and inorganic wastes. He said volunteers collected more than 500kg solid waste and garbage last year before properly disposing them of and that the organisation had been doing the exercise for three years.
“Littering is a major problem, which poses a serious threat to Saiful Maluk Lake,” Mr Rana said, adding that commercial activities, including horse riding and sale of fruits and other items, were increasing in the protected area.
When contacted, WWF coordinator in Nathia Gali Waseem Ahmad said his organisation was taking around 50 students and a group of environmentalists from Abbottabad and Islamabad to the lake on Oct 22 to collect waste.
He said volunteers would remain there for three days to clean the area before snowfall began.