Section 144 imposed in Margalla Hills after season’s first fire erupts

Published April 15, 2023
Smoke rises from a greenbelt near Faisal Mosque after the summer’s first forest fire broke out on Friday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Smoke rises from a greenbelt near Faisal Mosque after the summer’s first forest fire broke out on Friday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: As wildlife staff controlled one of the first few fires of the summer season in Margalla Hills on Friday, additional district magistrate imposed Section 144, barring visitors from preparing barbecues in the area as it could cause fire to erupt.

Sheryar Arif Khan, who is the additional district magistrate, issued the notification, prohibiting barbecues, smoking, bonfires, burning and littering of garbage and plastic, carrying flammable items such as lighters, charcoal, matchsticks, bottles of petrol or kerosene oil and cuttind down of trees as these activities lead to loss of habitat, pollute water and clear or break up land in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) in the jurisdiction of the federal capital, said the notification available with Dawn.

“Section 144 has been imposed for the next two months,” said Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan said.

Fire season starts from April and continues till June until the monsoon rains start from July.

IWMB chairperson says next week’s rain likely to bring temperature down

The sudden dry windy and warm weather after spring rains was the reason behind the fire that broke out near Faisal Mosque on Friday, said Ms Khan.

However, firefighters were able to control the fire by 5pm.

Rina Saeed Khan also announce that the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) had appointed a dedicated magistrate to the IWMB.

According to the official, the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board staff was patrolling the Margalla Hills, cautioning visitors of the law in place and that violations could land them behind bars and lead to imposition of heavy fines.

“The idea is prevention and controlling of fires. Teams are in place, clearing fire breakers of dry shrubbery, which started a couple of weeks ago. The IWMB has set up a fire control room at Old Zoo Office for April till July, in wake of the fire season 2023, which will remain operational for 24 hours,” she added.

“Anyone can report any incident of forest fire in MHNP to our control room number, 0309 5302425,” said Ms Khan.

Last year, fires in the protected area started as early as March, when the capital city was in the grip of an unusual heat wave. According to Ms Khan, people had become active and vigilant and had been cooperating in reporting fires.

She said that IWMB had good coordination with the staff of Capital Development Authority (CDA) last year and this year was no different. She said that another spell of rain starting next week would help in keeping temperatures under control.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2023

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