Forest fires break out in Margallas

First fire broke out in Shahdara area while second broke out near Saidpur Village


Shahzad Anwar April 25, 2018
One of the fires that erupted in the Margalla Hills. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: On a sweltering day in the capital, wild fires erupted at two separate locations on the Margalla Hills on Tuesday evening.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) Environment Wing and Emergency and Disaster Management Directorate teams were dispatched to extinguish the blaze.

The first incident forest fire was witnessed on the Margalla Hills was in the Shahdara area behind the Quaid-i-Azam University.

The second fire took place on the Margalla Hills near the historic Saidpur Village.

April blaze: Fresh forest fire erupts on Margalla Hills

“CDA teams took half hour to overcome forest fire at Shahdara,” CDA Director Environment Irfan Niazi told The Express Tribune, adding that second fire incident was reported in Jungle 13 near Saidpur Village at around 7:30pm, shortly after CDA’s firefighting teams returned to their stations after putting out the blaze in Shahdara.

Niazi said that two CDA firefighting teams were dispatched to Saidpur village to extinguish the fire. An additional two teams sent to help them.

Tuesday’s incidents were the third incident of forest fires erupting in the Margalla Hills from March 29.

Asked about how these fires start, the CDA official explained that some locals may be causing the fire given their frequency.

He said that every year during the fire season, which usually continues from April 15 to July 15, the CDA hires around 400 locals on daily wages at to fight fires in the jungles of the Margalla Hills.

This year, he said, the CDA has yet to hire the villagers, suggesting that some of the fires may have ben deliberately started to force the civic agency into hiring the.

Smoked out: Twin fires break out on hills

Niazi, however, said that authority had now approved the hiring of locals.

After hiring villagers, CDA has set up 32 temporary pickets from Bhara Kahu to Sector D-12 for the duration of the fire season.

The fire incidents on Margalla Hills have become regular events during every summer and autumn due to the presence of dry grass and flammable bushes. Generally, fire incidents at Margalla Hills occur during the driest months of the year including May, June, November and December but this year fire sparked off before peak summer season when grass and trees at Margalla Hills are verdant

Due to the rough terrain, it is nearly impossible to control the situation through conventional fire extinguishing vehicles and the CDA staff uses indigenous and manual bush beating technique to control the fire in accessible areas.

The CDA does not have aerial fire extinguishing tools or other modern technology to control forest fires in difficult and inaccessible areas.  The lack of proper safety processes and equipment is causing massive damage to the vegetation and wildlife on the Hills every year.

According to a CDA report, as many as 320 fire incidents occurred in the protected Margalla Hills National Park in last seventeen years in which tree cover measuring over 500 acres were damaged. Some time fire left very devastating impacts due to limited resources, steep incline, remoteness of the area and high speed wind. 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2018.

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