Activists gather to save Islamabad’s treasured Margalla Hills from arson fires
Islamabad civil society members along with Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) staff staged a protest at National Press Club Islamabad on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 to show their anger on the repeated suspicious forest fire on Margalla Hills.
Dozens of Islamabad hikers, environmentalists and representatives of the civil society, attended the protest and condemned fire events in the National Park. The initiative was spearheaded by Friends of Environment (FoE) who were joined by local hiking communities such as Islamabad Run With Us and Mountain Biking Club Islamabad (MTB).
“Margalla Hills are the lungs of Islamabad and it is distressing to see the way we are treating these natural resources. If we don;t action now, I fear these green beautiful hills will turn grey and will be destroyed from green. We must control forest fires and save our city from the environmental threat” Hussain from MTB told Islamabad Scene.
According to a Zahir Khan, the protection in-charge of Margala Hills National Park, “A pine tree takes over 30 years to grow 30 feet. Hundreds of trees, including pines, were destroyed in the accident.” Many wildlife species were also burned to death in the fire.
Holding placards that read “Stop Burning Margalla” and “Save Margalla Save Wildlife”, the protestors pointed out that Islamabad city authorities have failed to address the repeated fires and demanded an independent investigation on allegations that some fire are ignited intentionally.
One of the protesters carried a placard that stated: “Defend our trees from the fire as we defend our borders from enemies.”
Islamabad citizens protest outside National Press Club over repeated suspicious fire incidents on Margalla Hills. The recent fire doused on 2nd June morning after three days killed wildlife and burned many trees 😩 #SaveMargallaHills #SaveIslamabad #SavePakistan pic.twitter.com/aKLto92hzJ
— Islamabad Scene (@IslamabadScene) June 2, 2018
Speaking at the occasion, an activist, Mr. Tassadaq Malik, demanded that IWMB should be given more authority and resources to cope with the challenges. He also claimed that there is sufficient evidence that fires are being intentionally ignited in an organized way, threatening the beauty and wildlife in the Margalla Hills National Park.
Speakers highlighted that Margalla Hills are important in maintaining the ecological balance in the state of environment in Islamabad, therefore concerned authorities should in particular find the culprits responsible for the forest fire as majority of these fire incidents are intentional on behalf of the local communities mainly as a reaction against non-employment in the firefighting staff by CDA during the fire season starting from April to mid-July.
Uzma Saeed, Manager Operations at IWMB, said that the recent fire is an extension of the major May 23 fire on the hills. “The fire has been raging for 10 days as fire incidents have been continuously reported in several areas of the park since May 23.” IWMB’s 22 guards have been continuously engaged in extinguishing fire since then and suffered injuries as well, she added.
Meanwhile, a case has been registered with the Kohsar police against unidentified people causing the fire in response to a complaint lodged by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board. The FIR stated that the board managed to foil the previous attempt to set fire to the hills, but two people on a motorcycle set fire to a park near Talhar Mor on Daman-e-Koh road. It is believed that the main suspects were from timber mafia and hunters.
Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP), spread over 12,605 hectares, has witnessed multiple fire incidents, damaging the forest, killing wildlife and adding to air pollution. At least 10 fires have been reported this year and four in this month alone.