Margalla Hills see frequent fires during the summer season. — White Star
Margalla Hills see frequent fires during the summer season. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday directed the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for better coordination to control fires in the Margalla Hills National Park.

The direction came after IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan registered a complaint with the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change that the civic body was not cooperating with the nascent board which had become the legal custodian of the national park following a Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruling last year.

“CDA is on the board but none of its representatives ever attended a single IWMB meeting. The park belonged to the people and better cooperation between the departments is necessary to improve the facility for the general public,” said Ms Khan.

The committee met for a briefing on the increased frequency of forest fires in the Margalla Hills National Park. The meeting was informed that local disgruntled villagers were responsible for 80 to 90 per cent of fires in the Margalla Hills. Fires this year were no different, CDA’s Member Finance Rana Shakeel Asghar informed the committee.

Wildlife board chairperson says civic body not cooperating

According to the official, the CDA hired 300 to 400 local villagers on daily wages during the fire season, from April to June.

“Those left out became disgruntled and to take revenge started fires in the hills,” the official explained.

Mr Shakeel said the CDA was more than willing to assist the IWMB to help prevent and control forest fires. He also said the CDA was installing more than 30 pickets, CCTV cameras and wireless systems to monitor forest fires.

Nonetheless, the committee expressed displeasure over the absence of the CDA chairman to discuss the recent fires and littering in the Margalla Hills. The committee recommended to both the CDA and the IWMB to work together for the prevention of such incidents in future.

MNA Ali Nawaz Awan, who is special assistant to the prime minister on CDA affairs, stressed the need to take the local community on board and ensure their participation in prevention of such incidents.

Senator Taj Haider suggested to hire 300 to 400 local villagers on a permanent basis and to train them along scientific methods to address the issue.

Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul regretted that the CDA had failed to cooperate with the IWMB and that fires could be controlled with better coordination.

Later, officials from the Ministry of Climate Change briefed the committee about its working. They informed the members about various initiatives, including the 10 billion tree tsunami, Astola Island, Migratory Birds and Houbara Bustard Endowment Fund and Clean Green Cities Index.

The committee also discussed the usage of Euro 2 fuel and its harmful impact on the environment.

Senator Sherry Rehman registered a complaint with the committee that while vehicular pollution contributed more than 40pc to air pollution and smog in Punjab, little was being done to improve the quality of fuel, especially diesel used in heavy transport vehicles.

According to the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA), three oil refineries were still producing diesel with heavy sulphur content used in trucks and buses.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2021

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