The Shimla Hill is at the risk of losing its lush green beauty as the provincial government plans construction on the famous picnic spot. In violation of the seventh Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) of environmental sustainability, the plan involves denuding the hill for construction, sources told The Express Tribune on Monday.
The Abbottabad Development Authority (ADA) had, through newspaper advertisements, invited different consultants for a feasibility survey construction at the hill. For the new structure, the provincial government disbursed Rs2 million to the ADA to construct facilities such as a zoo, shopping mall, gym, police station, offices, sewerage and treatment plants, said sources.
The authority sent the offers of interested consultants to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa secretary local government for shortlisting before the final go-ahead from the provincial government.
On the other hand, nature enthusiasts and environmentalists have outrightly rejected the idea of construction on the hill, which overlooks the entire Abbottabad city and serves as a tourist attraction. “The step would deprive our children of the only picnic spot, which offers clean air,” said Nighat Afzaal, a teacher at a private college.
Ahsan Khan, a local environmentalist said that the plan requires the government to increase forest cover with forestation. But unfortunately, the rulers are felling trees from the picnic spot of historic importance. He also pointed out that the ADA has not obtained any Environment Impact Assessment from the Environmental Protection Authority before the finalising the plan, which he termed “disastrous” for the environment.
Encroachment and illegal tree felling is another problem to taint the beauty of Shimla as some influential figures have encroached upon over 200 kanals of the hill’s land some of them have constructed access roads on the state’s land illegally.
“A complaint has been lodged with the District Coordination Officer (DCO) Abbottabad seeking action against the encroachers,” said Advocate, Sardar Sajjad. He added that the DCO had through letter to the District Officer Revenue Abbottabad, called for demarcation of the hill’s land and removal of encroachments. However, no step has been taken yet, he lamented.
When contacted, Former President District Bar Association and President People’s Lawyers Forum Mehdi Zaman Khan Advocate quoted the revenue record the hill which is situated at an altitude of 4,120 feet, consisted has a total area of 1434.13 kanals including 920 kanals under tree cover and 12 kanals of the park and canteen.
He added that the land was the property of central government while the district administration was the occupant for decades. He clarified that neither the district administration nor the provincial government have any legal right to carry out or transfer the ownership to anyone under the law as the central government was the sole owner of the land. He warned that if the provincial government tried to deprive the citizens of the park and natural environment by felling trees, they would resist the move. He expressed the fear that the construction plan would prove “disastrous” for the natural beauty of the city.
An official source at the ADA, requesting condition of anonymity, said that the plan was conceived by the provincial government, which would supervise it. He however refused to give any detail of the project adding that the provincial government could better brief the media.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.
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