Margalla Hills ablaze with multiple fires, minister orders probe

Published May 29, 2024
CDA workers extinguish fire with bushes near Monal Restaurant on the Margalla Hills in Islamabad on Tuesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
CDA workers extinguish fire with bushes near Monal Restaurant on the Margalla Hills in Islamabad on Tuesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: As many as 15 fires broke out on Margalla Hills on Tuesday, prompting Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi to order an investigation and registration of an FIR.

The flames were doused by firefighters and three helicopters after around an eight hour-long operation.

The interior minister, in a statement, said there was a need to investigate if the 15 fires in a day were natural or deliberate ones. Mr Naqvi also directed for registration of an FIR of the incidents.

Moreover, he ordered formation of a committee.The statement said on the direction of the minister, the chief commissioner and IG Islamabad had tasked the concerned officers to look into the issue.

The constant fire incidents on Margallas have raised concerns among officials who suspect deliberate human involvement.

Official terms fires in Bhara Kahu range suspicious, over 200 firefighters put out flames after eight hours

An official of the environment wing said every year seasonal fires took place in the hills in the summer. Majority of these fires are seasonal, however, the pattern of the fires in the Bhara Kahu range on Tuesday indicated something fishy as the flames started in several places within a short range. This showed someone deliberately lit the fires and fled, he added.

According to a statement issued by the CDA, on the direction of the prime minister and the interior minister, Chairman Mohammad Ali Randhawa supervised the operation conducted by over 200 firefighters to put out the flames. Fire tenders of CDA/MCI and Rescue 1122 Rawalpindi also took part in operation.

Fire incidents every year have destroyed flora and fauna and affected the environment on Margalla Hills National Park, which spreads over 12,605 hectares.

On Tuesday, the multiple fires erupted in Bhara Kahu area near Trail 3, near Defence Complex (E-10), Saidpur range and on top of the hills, where the Margallas bordered with KP.

“With the support of three helicopters and the environment staff, we have successfully extinguished all the five fire incidents,” said director environment regional Asif Majeed.

Asked about any human involvement, he said: “At this stage we can’t say anything, but the fire incidents in Bhara Kahu range were suspicious as the fire started at different points within few minutes,” he said.

He said this year the CDA had hired over 400 locals for firefighting in three months and a shift of 250 staff remained present on duty round the clock in two shifts. These temporary staffers extinguish fires through traditional methods of beating the flames with bushes.

“We have also set up 38 pickets in different areas on the hills with 12 staffers deputed on each pickets. We are doing whatever we can do,” he said.

It is relevant to note that on Monday too two major fire incidents had taken place on the hills, which were extinguished after hectic efforts.

“Too many cooks spoil the broth,” remarked a retired CDA officer, adding for the last many years CDA and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board had been involved in supervision of Margalla Hills. He said these two organisations used to lock horns with each other. The complete control of these hills should be given to anyone of the organisations with a responsibility for everything that happens in the hills, including fires.

“This is good that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif yesterday directed swift firefighting operations and also appreciated the efforts of firefighters,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

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