Islamabad: Lack and proper sewerage system and growing commercial activities are damaging the natural beauty of the Margalla Hills.
The Margala Hills were declared a national park in April 1980. Lack of proper waste management and cleanliness gives Margalla Hills an ugly look and is also damaging the natural habitat of the precious wildlife in the area.
Sohaib Akhtar – resident of Islamabad – said, in last few years, a number of restaurants are open in Margalla Hills which are not only damaging the natural beauty and wildlife but also creating pollution in the National Park.
He added, lack of check and balance on the commercial activities is the main cause of mushroom growth of the commercial activities in Margalla Hills.
According to available data, Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) covers approximately 17,386 hectares (67.13sq/m). Tilla Charouni which is 1604m high is the tallest peak in the national park, declared so on April 27, 1980 under Section 21(1) of the Islamabad Wildlife (protection, conservation and management) Ordinance, 1979 and also affirmed as a wildlife sanctuary.
This status strictly prohibits any commercial activity and settlement in the area but a chain of hotels, mushrooming in this diverse park, is destroying the whole environment.
In recent years, we have seen that under the garb of promoting tourism, 17 restaurants and 20 shops have been constructed at six different locations namely Damn-e-Koh Viewpoint, Damn-e-Koh Road, Saidpur Village, Pir Sohawa, Mandla and Nurpur (Lohay Dandi Track).
These restaurants include Dhaba at Damn-e-Koh, Sunshine Resort, Refreshment Centre, Maryam Tuck Shop, Subhan Tuck Shop, View Point Shop, Cool Bite Tuck Shop, View Point Shop, Wild Mild Restaurant at Damn-e-Koh Road, Des Pardes, Charsi Tikka, Dera Shinwari Restaurants at Saidpur Village, Monal, La Montana restaurants, Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop, Tuck Shops in Parking of Monal/ La Montana, and Babu Huts at Pir Sohawa besides ten shops each established at Mandla and Nurpur.
Hundreds of cars travel on the winding road every day towards restaurants located in the park, creating pollution and intruding in the delicate habitat of wildlife at MHNP.
When contacted, Mome Saleem – an environmentalist – said, the commercial activities in Margalla Hills are severely disturbing the wildlife, injured monkeys beaten by the visitors are often seen in the hills. Moreover, plastic waste thrown by the visitors also effecting the species and seeds bank and also disturb the soil of the forest, she maintained.
Altaf Hussain – Assistant Director Environment, Capital Development Authority – said, the competent authority or the concern directorate do not take the environment directorate in confidence before issuance of license or No Objection Certificate (NOC) to any hotel, restaurant or handcart in Margalla Hills / National Park.
He added, the not only the plastic waste but the lighting, music and noise in these hotels also disturbed the habitat of wildlife.
To a question he said, as per law and rules, all these commercial activities in the National Park are illegal. CDA and Environmental Protection Agency from time to time takes action against these activities.
When contacted Spokesperson of Capital Development Authority, he said, protection of the environment is CDA’s responsibility, it pertains to Pak-EPA.
When this scribe contact Pak-EPA, the officials wishing not to be name, as he is not authorized to talk to media, said, Pak-EPA had not issued any NOC to any restaurant or hotel, the land of National Park belongs to CDA and it is responsible for its protection.
To a question regarding the action taken against the violators of environmental laws, he said, Pak-EPA in coordination with the Islamabad Wildlife Board Management has issued several notices over a dozen illegal restaurants and shops built in Margalla Hills National Park.