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ISLAMABAD: Over 1,500 acres of forest land in the Margalla Hills was recovered from encroachers and land grabbers.

An official of the capital administration said the Margalla Hills are divided in eight forest blocks and that two are still being demarcated via the Survey of Pakistan.

A meeting was held to review progress regarding the retrieval of forest land from land grabbers and encroachers on Monday and was attended by officials of the capital administration and forest officials from Rawalpindi.

The meeting was told that Margalla Block 1 and 6 have been completely demarcated and cleared from all encroachments, capital administration officials said.

The officials said 897 acres of land in the two blocks was under illegal occupation.

Similarly, 406 acres in Maira Block 2 have been cleared and efforts are underway to clear land in Maira Block 1 as well, the officials said.

Likewise, 161 acres in Block Tumair 3 and 50 acres in Block Tumair 1 have also been recovered and blocks Tumair 2 and 4 have also been cleared.

The land has been handed over to the Punjab Forest Department for afforestation, the officials said.

During the meeting, it was decided that a strategy for keeping the area protected from encroachments will be formulated and afforestation plans will be made for retrieved and demarcated land.

A senior official of the capital administration said that forest land has been under the illegal occupation of villagers and influential people. He said the land has been encroached on for various reasons such as for chopping off trees and hunting.

So far, no legal action has been taken against the encroachers even though many of them have been identified. An official said the issue has been brought into the notice of higher-ups but they are reluctant to take action against those responsible.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019