ISLAMABAD: After inauguration of Trail 7, the newly-appointed chairman of Capital Development Authority (CDA) is now facing a controversy as Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) has alleged that the trail belonged to the board and the CDA chief had no right to inaugurate it.

In his first day in office, CDA Chairman retired Capt Mohammad Usman Younis on Wednesday morning inaugurated the trail, which starts from sector C-12 and culminates at Kanthla village.

However, it seems, he was not briefed about the status of Margalla Hills by CDA officials. As per the board installed at the trail, it was established by CDA’s environment wing.

However, sources said that IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan, wrote a letter to the chairman, saying: “It seems that your good self was not briefed about legal status of Margalla Hills National Park and trail no 7. Unfortunately, the legal consequences of the inauguration are likely to follow and all those present at the inauguration can be held liable for contempt of court.”

IWMB questions inauguration of the site by CDA chairman

The letter further states that trail is inside the boundary of Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) and as per Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Ordinance 1979, and Islamabad High Court (IHC) judgments, IWMB is custodian of MHNP.

It further said that judgment passed by the IHC in a case titled ‘Prof Zahid Baig Mirga Vs CDA’ states inter alia the area of Margalla Hills was notified as an integral part of the national park by the federal government in exercise of powers conferred under section 21 of the Wildlife Ordinance of 1979 vide notification, dated 28-04-1980.

The letter said that the sole authority under the Wildlife Ordinance 1979 to allow such activities (hiking trails) was and continues to be the board.

Ms Saeed told Dawn that the board’s spokesperson will provide further details about this.

Later on, the spokesperson, Umar Bilal approached Dawn and confirmed that the said letter had been written by IWMB chairperson, adding that both IWMB and CDA’s officials established the said trail, but later on without intimating and taking the board into loop, the CDA got it inaugurated early in the morning of Wednesday.

He said that as per law, IWMB is the custodian of Margalla Hills National Park. “Therefore, just to share our concern [with CDA] we wrote a letter,” he said.

When contacted, a CDA officer said that the civic agency had not violated any rule while constructing Trail 7, adding that the CDA’s law wing was preparing a proper reply to the IWMB letter.

When contacted for official comments, CDA’s spokesperson Syed Asif Raza said the Environment Wing of the CDA had developed this facility in lines with Section 21 of the Wildlife Act 1979.

“The facility is being used by the large segment of the society especially families and is being praised by the public as well. These trails actually serve the core objectives of education and recreation for which the Act of 1979 was promulgated,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2022

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