ISLAMABAD: Though warned repeatedly by environmentalists that putting garbage bins along the city’s hiking trails will create a bigger mess than clean the Margalla Hills National Park, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) seems none the wiser.
Last week, the chairman of the civic body ordered to repeat the exercise on Trail 5 where the non-profit Himalayan Wildlife Foundation (HWF) twice removed the bins nailed to the trees in the past.
A senior CDA official said the fresh exercise was “in response to letters written to the chairman by visitors to the park”.
But Shadmeena Khanum of HWF dismissed the plan as “unworkable and not done”. She has been resisting the idea for long.
“Nowhere in the world do national parks have garbage bins. They are installed/placed in parking areas, or designated locations, where wildlife does not have access and collection is easier,” she told Dawn.
“Two years ago we explained to the CDA how much litter was thrown around the garbage bins than in them. Worst, the garbage was never collected because the park staff found it too cumbersome to hike a kilometre or two to clear the bins,” she added.
And wild animals, especially monkeys, made it worse by carrying and scattering rubbish, plastic bottles and bags of chips to inaccessible spots where collection became even harder.
Khanum pointed out how wildlife had been eating out of the garbage bins placed in sector E-7 and near Faisal Mosque.
HWF director Vaqar Zakaria recommended spreading awareness among the visitors to the protected park area, rather than putting its wildlife and environment in danger. “Up to 70 per cent of the visitors have the sense of carrying their rubbish with them. The remaining we need to educate to protect the pristine setting of the protected area,” he said.
Instead of installing garbage bins on the hills, the CDA should be enforcing its anti-litter laws, as it has started doing in the market areas and parking lots in Islamabad proper. “The money collected as fine can be used for better management of the park,” said Mr Zakaria asking “Who will empty the bins installed high up on the Trail?”
A regular hiker, Sardar Kamal, preferred CDA nailing signs informing visitors that they were expected to carry away their half eaten lunch boxes, empty coke cans, water bottles, and wrappers.
“People should carry out what they carry in, and fine those who litter,” added Sharmeen Khan, another regular hiker.
Villagers who commute through the park area and along the trails also are not pleased with garbage bins installed by the CDA.
“Litter thrown outside the bins gave our beautiful Margallas the look of some street of Islamabad where piles of rubbish is tossed outside the big silver garbage bins,” sneered villager Mohammad Khadim.
“We are going to strictly implement the rules. Those who litter will be fined,” assured the director of the CDA’s Environment Wing, Mohammad Irshad.
“I have directed the hill park staff to try and keep it as clean as possible.”
A global study has found that urbanisation has made cities lose large number of their plants and animals. But the good news is that cities still retain endemic native species.
In the study, reported last week, research scientist Myla Aronson of the Rutgers University of the US highlighted the value of green spaces in cities, saying, “They have become important refuges for native species and migrating wildlife”.
An earlier study in the United Kingdom found that green spaces improve mental health. More than 50 per cent of the world population lives in towns and cities.