Wildfires erupt at Margalla Hills, again

Published: May 31, 2018
Smoke rises from the wildfire on Margalla Hill. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR\EXPRESS

Smoke rises from the wildfire on Margalla Hill. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR\EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: A wild fire has broken out at Margalla Hills near Monal at Saidpur Dara on Wednesday.

Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) fire fighters along with staff of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board were taking part in the firefighting operation till late in the evening.

On Thursday, army aviation helicopters are busy extinguishing Margla hills fire, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Nine sorties carrying Bambi buckets flown over Bari area affected by fire behind Bari Imam.

The Pakistan Army troops also reached the site to take part in rescue work, ISPR added.

IMC Mayor Anser Aziz has sought helicopters from aviation division to overcome forest fire. The fire fighters were unable to douse the flames due to high winds. “The mayor contacted cabinet division for helicopter service to extinguish fire but we were told that the choppers were busy at some other places and would take part in operation soon,” CDA Environmental Wing Deputy Director Akhtar Rasool said.

He said that fresh team of firefighters would be sent to take part in operation after Iftar. The fire had spread over 10 to 12 acres area due to high winds.

Season’s first: Wildfire break out in Margalla Hills

Foul play suspected

Fires broke out at two points – behind Saidpur Village and Daman-e-Koh picnic point.

“Our teams are making all-out efforts to extinguish the flames. So far, a major area has been cleared,” said CDA spokesman Malik Saleem. However, he could not ascertain the cause of the fire.

“Generally it is the season when fires break out on the hills,” he said.

April blaze: Fresh forest fire erupts on Margalla Hills

Other CDA officials said every year the civic agency hires services of hundreds of local villagers on a daily wage basis for three months to extinguish fires on the hills. In many cases, the officials claimed, those who could not get the seasonal jobs ignite fires in the forest so that they may get work to extinguish it.

Wild forest fires in Margalla Hills have somehow become a regular occurrence and have erupted four times in this month alone. This has reduced hundreds of acres of pristine land and flora to cinders.

“Everybody can see what is at work here,” said Uzair Rasool, a real estate developer and avid hiker. “They (timber mafia) sell the trees, clear the land, set it on fire and deceive us all,” he added.

Quite interestingly, once the forest fire erupts, it takes days to put it out. Last month, the fire on Margalla  hills could not be put out completely even after two days. The fire expanded towards nearby villages and had reached near Trail 5, before firemen along with helicopters from the armed forces, helped in dousing it.

with additional input by APP

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2018.

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