By Mehwish Azam
ISLAMABAD, Dec 9 (APP):Margalla Hills National Park’s flora and fauna is exposed to serious threats of survival due to regular fire incidents and carefree visitors who hurl waste everywhere with impunity.
Spanning over 17,386 hectares, Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) comprises of six trails (hiking tracks) and four of them are opened for public and over 17,000 regular trekkers and casual sightseers visit here per week, revealed the data received through RTI shared by Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB).
Those regular trekkers who come with a seriousness of purpose own the responsibility to take care of this scenic spot but majority of those who occasionally visit to take a day out of their busy routine leave behind a huge mess of trash that includes plastic bottles, wrappers, tins, juice boxes, shopping bags and other hazardous stuff.
Ranked as the third-largest national park in the world, the MHNP is home to rich biodiversity comprising around 38 species of mammals, 350 different breeds of birds, 32 kinds of reptiles, 09 species of amphibians and 650 types of plants, according to IWMB’s collated statistics.
The fire that erupts in regular intervals at this natural treasure has catastrophic effects on its flora and fauna.
In April 2021 alone, the park bore more than half a dozen fire incidents and reportedly perished a large number of birds during their peak breeding season, Manager Operations IWMB Sakhawat Ali shared in a regret.
The official, for most of the fires, incriminated local timber mafia and visitors for rest of the incidents who enjoy barbeques or lit fires for fun and do not bother to extinguish it properly before leaving the place.
He vowed to continue educating visitors to protect the park, known as federal capital’s scenic identity. Regarding the safety measures taken by the board, Sakhawat said a team of 12 member staff was tasked to focusing on the four active trails while 38 officials were engaged to ensure wildlife protection and monitoring in field areas of the park.
CCTV cameras, he informed, were installed on the entrance point of each trail under capital’s Safe City project; however, IWMB places its own more than a dozen cameras on as and when required basis to monitor wildlife species.
The official said that IWMB in collaboration with Capital Administration and civil society also arranges cleanliness campaigns, time to time, to ensure that the serenity of this blessed recreation destination remained intact.
A regular hiker and capital’s resident, Jawad Ali Shah talking to this scribe regretted for irresponsible behavior on the part of those visitors who come to make their day at the expense of Park’s environment and leave their trash behind, exposing habitat and wildlife to serious threats.
It is pertinent to mention here that the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner had also posted his picture on social media earlier this year in which he was carrying two bags full of trash that he collected from the Margalla Hills.
This gesture went viral on social media and gave boost to the efforts for preserving the natural character of the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).