Threats to the environment

January 7, 2018

Environmental issues are rarely taken seriously in Pakistan. The recent spell of smog in Punjab and government’s ill-preparation to tackle it was not surprising. The situation in the Federal capital isn’t much different when it comes to protecting the environment. Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad was declared a national park back in 1980 and was also affirmed as a wildlife sanctuary. This status strictly prohibits any commercial activity and settlement in the area. This park is an extension of the Islamabad wildlife sanctuary, which includes the Shakarparian Hills and the Rawal Lake Park. The Shakarparian Hills and the Rawal Lake is also under threat thanks to the non-existent environmental checks.

But a chain of hotels, illegal urban encroachments, exploitation of the parks resources and tree chopping has put the delicate ecosystem of the park, home also to a host of endangered species under threat. The park was rich in biodiversity and home to around 600 plant species, 250 bird varieties, 38 mammals and 13 species of reptiles. Over the years the small kiosk a few kilometers above the Damn-e-Koh sightseeing spot has turned into a sprawling restaurant complex, the population of the villages present in the park has seen a visible increase as more and more people take up residence in the park as price of living in the city shoots up. The 23 or so villages in the park now have a population of more than 150,000 that has put major stress on the park’s resources.

Some of hiking trails in the park that provided an excellent opportunity to citizens to spend time in a natural environment have literally turned into garbage dumps thanks to the apathy of the trekkers. The Margalla Hills had also been experiencing stone crushing and mining but that has now stopped after the Supreme Court took up the matter. However, the practice is in full swing outside the park’s boundary. The current situation of the ‘mode’ Saidpur village is also a good example of the apathy of the Capital Development Authority. The array of restaurants in the village has turned it into more of a commercial spot than a village. The once clear water stream passing through the village is now more of a garbage dump.  If urgent steps are not taken to preserve the natural habitat the Margalla Hills will suffer immensely and will result in overall environment decoration in the capital.

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