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ISLAMABAD: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) have joined hands to control growing incidents of forest fires at Margalla Hills National Park.

Both the organisations signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday to establish seven fully equipped fire stations in the national park.

NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Omar Mahmood Hayat and Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz signed the MoU at a ceremony held at Gojri Bari near Talhar village.

NDMA, MCI sign MoU to prevent fire incidents which damage trees, affect temperature

Spreading over 12,605 hectares, the Margalla Hills National Park witnesses many fires every year.

During the last few years, bigger and more frequent fires were reported which damaged trees and plants besides adding to air pollution and rising temperature in the capital.

Speaking at the ceremony, the NDMA chairman said besides destroying the green character of the national park the frequent fires in the recent past caused a considerable damage to the flora and fauna of the area.

He hoped that the establishment of the fire extinction points would greatly boost the efforts for preserving natural environment and ensuring safe habitat for wildlife.

Mayor Aziz said protection of hills was a national cause and appreciated the NDMA for its support. He said the MCI would take every possible step to reduce fire incidents in the area.

Under the MoU, the NDMA and MCI have agreed to work together in controlling forest fires.

According to the proposed plan, initially seven fire control points will be established in two phases at the Margalla Hills, both in Islamabad capital territory (ICT) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa areas.

In the first phase, five stations will be set up while the remaining two will be established in the second phase.

The NDMA will endeavour to provide logistics support through various sources. However, MCI shall be responsible to provide all necessary infrastructure and manpower for on-the-ground control and operation at these fire stations.

The issue of frequent fire incidents on the hills was also taken up by the Supreme Court which later referred the matter to the federal ombudsman.

In pursuance of the direction of the apex court dated June 25, 2018, the ombudsperson held meetings with the CDA, NDMA, MCI, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the Ministry of Interior and suggested measures to prevent the fires.

It was recommended that the MCI, CDA, IWMB and NDMA should work together to develop standard operating procedures to ensure coordination in order to avoid such incidents.

The ombudsman office had directed the MCI to equip its pickets on modern lines along with deployment of sufficient staff to control the fire incidents.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019