IHC orders survey of damage caused to Margalla Hills National Park

Published November 10, 2021
This file photo shows the Islamabad High Court. — IHC website/File
This file photo shows the Islamabad High Court. — IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday blamed the federal government, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) for being complacent about the destruction of Margalla Hills National Park and the wildlife sanctuary.

Authored by Chief Justice Athar Minallah, a 10-page order regretted that those who were duty bound to protect and preserve the specified area of the national park appeared to have been responsible for its destruction.

The order came during the hearing of a petition moved by Prof Zahid Baig Mirza against violation of the Islamabad Master Plan (IMP).

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan sought time to seek instructions from the government.

Court blames federal govt, CDA and IWMB for being complacent about destruction to park, wildlife sanctuary

In case of the designated national park area, the order observed, the role of these three institutions appeared to be a classic example of erosion of rule of law and facilitation of environmental degradation.

The damage already caused must be immeasurable and irreversible, the order noted, regretting the court had no hesitation in recording its observation that the governance within the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) during the last six decades appeared to have been based on benefitting the privileged and the elite.

“Acts and decisions of the policy makers and those entrusted with the responsibility of governance appear to have facilitated environmental degradation adversely affecting the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan,” the order stated.

Consequently, the IHC ordered Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, the secretary climate change, the CDA chairman and the IWMB chairperson to jointly survey the notified areas of the national park and the wildlife sanctuary and furnish a joint report highlighting the damage that had been caused.

They are also expected to take immediate measures to save the notified area from further harm, the order said, adding that these officials would ensure that no construction took place nor any illegal activity was carried out within the notified area of the park.

They will also identify the officials and authorities responsible for destruction of the park and suggest how they could be made accountable.

Any activity or construction in violation of the Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance 1979 be restrained, the order said with a direction to the AGP to examine the purported grant of more than 8,000 acres in the park to the Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of the General Headquarters (GHQ) and assist the high court regarding its legality since, prima facie, it appears to be in violation of the laws.

The CDA will also submit a report justifying leasing out of land in the park to Messers Monal Group of Companies and allowing the latter to execute a purported lease agreement with the Remount.

The director general of Pakistan Environment Protection Agency will also conduct an independent survey of the notified areas of the wildlife sanctuary and the park and submit a report, highlighting the extent of environmental degradation and suggesting measures to protect it from further destruction.

The court also modified its March 3, 2021, order to the extent that till Dec 8 the due rent by Monal Restaurant will be deposited in the concerned court where a suit was pending.

Pakistan is amongst the top countries ranked most vulnerable to the life threatening outcome of climate change. Experts have classified Pakistan as a prime target of global warming, the court observed.

The encroachment and destruction of the national park has life threatening consequences for the people of Pakistan and those who are responsible for the irreversible damage and destruction of the park have put the future generations at a great risk, it regretted.

The beneficiaries are the privileged and the elite while the poor and marginal classes of society have been exposed to the consequences of climate change and global warming, the order said.

It is a constitutional obligation of the state and its public functionaries to put an end to such impunity, it added.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2021

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