ISLAMABAD: Good news for hikers. Islamabad residents may have some new trails apart from the existing six. However, the bad news is there is not enough staff to man them.
Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) member Viqar Zakaria told Dawn that they were working on a PC-I and would get it passed soon. He said under the project, “new trails would be opened and the existing ones improved”.
At present, the board has less than 30 staff members who are not even enough to look after the existing trails. Therefore, for providing a secure environment to visitors, the board will have to recruit new staff.
Mr Zakaria said staff would be recruited for the new trails as well as for the existing ones to improve patrolling and proper security huts would be setup.
Asked about last month’s incident when two people attempted to sexually assault three foreigners, he said such an incident never occurred on the trails frequented by visitors. The foreigners had gone to an abandoned area near a village; “however the case has been traced,” he said.
IWMB official says PC-I being prepared, staff to be recruited
Similarly, newly-appointed IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan said the board was focusing on trails and a new project would be launched soon. She, however, said instead of installing CCTV cameras the board wanted to hire guards to improve patrolling.
Though IWMB claimed that it had full control of all trails, a source in the CDA said the civic agency, which had developed the tracks, had staff deputed on trails 3, 5 and 2. All the six trails are natural but a few decades ago the CDA’s environment wing developed them, he added.
Currently, there are six trails, which start from the foothills of Margalla Hills.
According to the CDA website, Trail 1 leads visitors to the top terminal of Pir Sohawa Road in more or less two hours. Upon extending the walkway, a visitor can reach Monal Restaurant in 20 minutes.
Trail 2 starts out just above Pir Sohawa, the point located near Islamabad zoo. It is 1 to 1.5 hours walk and leads visitors to Daman-i-Koh viewpoint. The visitor can also travel beyond this spot upward to the cactus ridge.
Trail 3 is an old hiking track, which is the most frequented. It starts from Margalla Road in F-6. The trail is exhausting to some extent due to steep hills. The course will lead the visitor to the viewpoint and is about 30-50 minutes track. After the viewpoint visitors can continue for another 45-60 minutes and reach Pir Sohawa. In total, it is about one hour and 30 minutes walk.
Trail 4 is the link between trails 3 and 5. Trail 5 begins from Margalla Road in F-5 and is easier to climb. Trails 3 and 5 run parallel up to some distance, and are connected via Trail 4 at certain points.
Trail 5 will lead the visitor to the top of Pir Sohawa Road. The visitor can switch Trail 3 to 5 by walking an extra distance of 1.5km. The estimated time to cover the distance on the trail is about 2.5-3.5 hours.
Trail 6 starts from the back of Faisal Mosque in E-7 and will take the visitor through a valley along a well-defined route to the top terminal of Pir Sohawa Road. The trail has a track for mountain bikes and a bird watching point.
A large number of people visit these trails, particularly on weekends. Besides locals, foreigners, including diplomats, also hike there with many coming regularly.
There are different types of hikers. Some are health conscious-regular visitors, others are occasional hikers while some are tourists visiting from other parts of the country.
The trails are being manned by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
Due to rush on weekends, a large number of hikers have to park their vehicles on Margalla Road.
“The trails are a blessing for us. This is a place to take fresh breath and walk to maintain health. I regularly come here,” said Basit Khan, a resident of G-7, who was walking on Trail 5, which is dubbed a ‘festivity point’ for being relatively easy to hike. Trail 3 on the other hand is not-so-easy to hike.
A government officer, Ramzan Sajid, said Trail 3 was for serious hikers.
“Those who want to lose weight and improve fitness opt for this trail,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2020