ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam on Wednesday inaugurated the newly-rehabilitated Trail 2 for hikers during a small ceremony.

“It’s a hike that looks good in pictures and even better once you’re actually here,” Mr Aslam said as he cut the ribbon and announced the trail open for hikers.

A group of enthusiasts and environmentalists joined Mr Aslam on a 40-minute hike that started from Islamabad Zoo on a route that connected with Trail 2. The temperature was perfect with foliage bursting with a sea of colours, glorified in the spring sun as hikers got a dose of fresh air.

“This is a hike that has you saying wow,” one of the hikers said.

“There was a good reason Trail 2 used to be a popular trail. You are surrounded by beautiful trees all along and the hike is challenging,” added another hiker.

Margalla Hills National Park is an asset, said Mr Aslam, adding the idea to declare Margalla Hills a national park was to protect nature and its wildlife which is why, in order to keep it green and clean, we are strictly banning plastic in the park.

“It is unique that leopards live so close to settlement. Leopards are nocturnal. We urge hikers to use trails during the day and not after dark. The park is their home and people need to be considerate and not disturb them,” he said urging people to protect wildlife in the hills.

Elaborating on the theme of World Environment Day ‘Forests and Livelihoods’, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan said Trail 2 was an old track but had been out of use. “Our staff worked really hard to clear the trail of all the litter, mostly plastic waste. goes all the way up to Daman-i-Koh and takes about 40 minutes,” she added.

Talking about the Conservation Centre that will soon be established, Ms Khan said a concept note of the project had been completed. “Join Hands, which is an international NGO, is assisting in the concept of the conservation centre, and also in designing it. It’s a little bit delayed but we want to get it right from the start,” she added.

Responding to a question about why the female leopard Shehzadi was named that, she said the animal looked royal and the name just fit.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, who was part of the ceremony, said that residents of Islamabad were part of nature with a strong commitment to it.

“I walk in the hills frequently. We have to focus on climate change. It is our collective responsibility to protect and preserve the Margalla Hills National Park,” he added.

Documentaries on Margalla hills were also shown along with images of the leopard that roams between Trail 4 and Trail 6 after dark.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2021

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