Building roads, in a developing country like ours, is generally a good thing – but it can get out of hand. The obsession of the Sharifs with constructing highways is well-established. It can do good by linking the country, though perhaps more mundane works such as roads linking villages to main roads, would serve people better. However, the project to expand Islamabad by digging a tunnel through the Margalla Hills which look down over the capital and build a ‘new’ city beyond them, appears to be taking things too far.
As Senator Mushahid Hussain has pointed out, the project, work on which has already been ordered, violates laws barring construction in the Margalla Hills National Park, is a threat to the ecology and has been proceeded without seeking Planning Commission approval, obtaining a No-Objection Certificate from the Environmental Protection Agency or completing other required procedural steps. We can also assume boring a tunnel through a range of hills would be enormously expensive, and ask if there are not other spheres where the sums involved could be better spent. The haste with which the tunneling plan has been pushed through also raises eyebrows. Mushahid has asked the Supreme Court and the chief justice to take notice. Appalled citizens in Islamabad are also protesting, while no doubt considering the environmental destruction the building plan would entail. We must hope their voices will be heard. We have in many places in our country seen too much environmental damage in the name of development. The Margalla tunnel would simply add to this. It is hard to understand why it is being pushed forward at such speed, violating laid down regulations. Any work on the project must be stopped, an explanation given as to why it is deemed such a priority given that much else needs to be done and the Margalla Hills protected from being damaged in this fashion by the building of the road.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2013.