Roughly 40 km long and spread over 12,605 hectares; the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) was declared a national park back in 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. This park is an extension of the Islamabad wildlife sanctuary, which includes the Shakarparian Hills and the Rawal Lake Park. The Shakarparian Hills (now no more a hill) and the Rawal Lake is also under threat thanks to the non-existent environmental checks.
But a chain of hotels, illegal urban encroachments, over 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 Capital Development Authority authorized the construction), 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. If urgent steps are not taken to preserve the natural habitat it is feared that the wildlife park will probably cease to exist in the next ten to fifteen years.
The ‘lungs’ of Islamabad must be saved for the sake of city’s future.
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