Civic authorities in a fix as fires continue to ravage Margallas

Published May 29, 2021
Thick smoke rises as fire spreads to the Saidpur Village side of Margalla Hills in Islamabad on Friday. — White Star
Thick smoke rises as fire spreads to the Saidpur Village side of Margalla Hills in Islamabad on Friday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Fire incidents are constantly taking place in Margalla Hills as the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) have failed to prevent the flames.

Following an incident on Wednesday, at least three fires broke out on Friday destroying ecosystem, trees, plants and posing threat to the wildlife.

Spread over 12,605 hectares, the Margalla Hills National Park witnesses large numbers of fires every year. However, the CDA and the IWMB have failed to come up with any practical step to stop the fires.

“There is a need for a proper investigation to know what are the reasons behind the frequent fires though a fire could be a natural phenomenon and a result of human activity,” said an official of the CDA.

He said currently the CDA environment wing regional and the IWMB were looking after Margalla Hills National Park. “There is also a need to check if there is any rivalry between these two organisations,” the official said.

Official claims fires caused by high temperature

Another official said there could be another reason behind the frequent fire cases. Every year, the CDA hires services of around three to four hundreds locals for three months for firefighting purpose.

The official said there was a possibility that disgruntled elements who could not get the firefighting jobs might be causing the fires deliberately. There is a need for a proper investigation to ascertain if these fires are deliberate incidents.

An officer of the environment wing said the CDA had been making all-out efforts to control the fires, adding for this season 400 private and 200 CDA staffers were deputed on the hills to stop the incidents. He said 32 pickets and a control room had also been set up by the CDA.

When contacted, CDA’s Director General Environment Naveed Tareen told Dawn that fires erupted naturally and were also caused by human activity. During a dry season, a fire spreads out within seconds.

“We have taken measures to control fire incidents by deploying a dedicated team of firefighters,” he said.

Asked about the reasons behind the frequent fires, he said: “A fire is a nature phenomenon but it could also be a result of human error. It could also be a deliberate attempt to defame staffers hired by the CDA,” he said.

“Today, there were three fire incidents and all of them were put out. The cause of the fires was high temperature,” he said.

Meanwhile, IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan said the IWMB was worried about loss of wildlife in fires. She said Friday’s fire incidents were not natural but arson. She said IWMB had 60 member-staff and from tomorrow the entire staff will focus on controlling fire incidents.

“According to my staffers, an unknown person is involved in today’s fire incidents. We will probe this matter and would take action against those involved,” she said, adding her staff also took part in fire extinguishing operations.

The IWMB chairperson said a coordination meeting was also held on Friday to take measures to stop the fires.

Sources said the CDA and IWMB were not enjoying a good working relation and both the organisations always tried to take lead on social media to show the government that they were doing the best. But on the ground, frequent fire incidents are taking place in Margalla Hills, which is a matter of concern for environmentalists and residents of Islamabad.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on CDA Affairs Ali Nawaz Awan said in a dry season fire incidents took place naturally. But he said he will look into all the aspects to ascertain the reasons behind the incidents.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021

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