ISLAMABAD: More than 100 university students and nature lovers participated in the hiking and clean-up drive at Margalla Hills Trail 5 after an interactive session on wildlife and biological diversity of the Margalla Hills on Saturday.
The daylong event was organised by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) in connection with the ongoing two-week long 12th Pakistan Mountain Festival. Pakistan Mountain Festival is the annual flagship event of Devcom-Pakistan to commemorate United Nations (UN) International Mountain Day (IMD) that falls on Dec 11.
IWMB chairman (scientific committee) ZB Mirza briefed participants about the biological diversity and natural heritage of the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).
“MHNP has been quite neglected since it was established in 1980 even though, it is the third-largest national park in the world with an area of 17,386 hectares (42,960 acres) under the foothills of the Himalayas.
“In the recent decade, its importance was realised after seeing the impact of unwanted haphazard constructions and movement of vehicles more than its carrying capacity. Many initiatives have been taken so far to protect wildlife and biological diversity including awareness raising among communities living in the habitats,” he said.
Mr Mirza urged the youth to respect diversity of species, and help manage wildlife and human beings so they could live in peace. The park is rich in biodiversity, especially rich in Sino-Himalayan fauna, most notably gray goral, barking deer and the leopard. MHNP is home to around 600 plant species, 402 bird varieties, 38 mammals and 27 species of reptiles.
IWMB Deputy Director Umme Habia said under the new management, recently the IWMB has taken many steps for the protection of the park and visitors. Many cases of woodcutting and forest fires were averted. The renovated IWMB nature education centres were the hub of activities and awareness raising sessions and community engagement.
Speaking on the occasion, Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director and founder of Pakistan Mountain Festival Munir Ahmed said the MHNP is increasingly becoming the focus of visitors and illegal constructions. Solid waste management and littering have increased manifold despite many interventions by the IWMB and civil society organisations.
“Environmentally unfriendly practices have damaged natural resources in all three parts of the national park including hills, Rawal Lake and Shakarparian because of their irrational policies,” he said.
Meanwhile a live painting competition revolving around the theme ‘Women Move Mountains’ marked the opening of a two-week long Pakistan Mountain Festival (PMF) at Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU).
As many as 36 students participated in the competition. The participating institutions included FJWU, National College of the Arts (NCA), Rawalpindi Women University, Westminster Academy, Foundation University Islamabad campus, SZABIST University, International Islamic University, FG College for Women Kashmir Road, Islamabad Model College for Girls and National Textile Institute.
The participants painted mountain women’s struggle in combating real-life challenges in the changing climate, women in mountain ecosystem conservation, and cultural heritage from northern parts of Pakistan. They depicted the impact of climate change on life in mountains besides the aesthetic value.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2022