ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers on Thursday recommended demolishing all illegal constructions in Margalla Hills National Park.
Members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Climate Change believed that their recommendation was in line with the Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance 1979.
The ordinance provided for the protection, reservation, conservation and management of wildlife after the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) was established in 1979.
Chairperson of the committee MNA Munaza Hassan agreed with her colleagues that commercial activities in the protected park were degrading the natural environment and its habitat.
Chairperson says commercial activities in protected park are degrading natural environment
“Owners of restaurants and resorts are in a moneymaking business and do not care about preserving environment in the national park. They continue to contaminate catchment areas that recharge the aquifers,” she lamented.
Environmentalist Bilal Haque briefed the committee about the MHNP that varied in elevation from 1,347 feet to 3,907 feet.
“It is home to 1,700 flowering plants and some 50 species of grass besides wild animals like the common leopards, gray goral and barking deer. It is an irreplaceable natural resource which cannot be recreated once lost. It must be protected and improved at all costs,” Mr Haque urged the members.
Old and new satellite images showed loss of natural habitat from illegal human activities since 2004. The green hills could be seen turned brown at many spots in the national park from encroachments.
The meeting was informed that MHNP continued to be threatened by uncontrolled building activities such as madressahs and expanding villages such as at Saidpur.
“The biggest violation we see in the MHNP is the Monal Restaurant and eight other such establishments around it. The gaseous and liquid effluent from these entities continue to cause significant environmental damage same as the unrestricted and massive flow of traffic to and from these commercial places,” he added.
The members learnt that Margalla Hills were catchment areas for water that flowed in the Soan and Korang rivers as well as Khanpur Dam.
The members said national parks around the world were governed by strict rules and the same should be applicable to MHNP. Some of those rules limited access and vehicular traffic, prevent littering, smoking and any exploitation of natural resources.
However, none of the senior officials from the concerned departments attended the meeting.
The committee showed its concerns over the absence of the adviser to the prime minister on climate change and minister of state for climate change as well as the secretary Ministry of Climate Change from the meeting.
The chairperson decided to finish the meeting without any further discussion due to the absence of the chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA), the mayor of Islamabad, the secretary Petroleum Division, chairman Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) and heads of other departments.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2019