Nature in danger
The failure to protect our natural habitat is a problem which will haunt us in the coming years as Pakistan faces climate change and other threats. The Margalla Hills National Park, spread out over an area of 17,386 hectares, which includes Rawal Lake and Shakarparrian Park, is facing growing dangers from overpopulation, environmental degradation and official neglect. Just days ago an emergency was declared in the park area, with the Natural Disaster Management Authority calling in helicopters and firefighting vehicles after fire broke out in several areas of the Margalla Hills forest, potentially endangering the people living nearby. The fires were extinguished by March 31, although a watch continued to be kept over the area in case they break out again. In dry weather fires have ravaged the Margalla Hills in the past. These fires are frequently caused by tourist activity and in some cases timber collection by local villagers.
There are 37 villages located in the area of the National Park and the fuel need of the people from these inhabitations is met by cutting timber to cook food and for other purposes. For years, indeed since 1980, when the park was created, the failure to provide alternative sources of fuel to the villages has meant that the trees making up the forest remain in constant danger. In addition, streams have been contaminated while growing tourism in the National Park often leads to destruction. Illegal hunting has also been reported. The Margalla Hills National Park is an important ecological space which needs to be protected. To do so awareness needs to be created among people, both those who live there and those who visit. Saving this area is crucial to protecting the environment in the Islamabad area and beyond it. Authorities have been negligent in taking measures to ensure this. The problem as such continues to grow. A strategy needs to be developed to protect the park and save it from the perilous situation it is facing today.