The vegetation on the Margalla Hills has always been prone to danger of bush fire during this season of the year. A large number of precious trees are burnt and wid animals killed but the civic agency has not been able to find out the reasons that cause fire and devise concrete stratgey to control the damage. When the fire erupts the departments concerned usually remain in disarray and seem hapless to “the will of nature” or man-made disaster. Although the civic agency announces making of plans to curb such incidents and this time round again the civic agency has come up with preparations to preempt such predicaments.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has chalked out a strategy to deploy the emergency staff to control fire at the Margalla Hills National Park (MNCP). The area has been divided into four ranges — Golra, Saidpur, Noorpur and Bhara Kahu — for efficient surveillance and mobilisation.
Some 30 fire pickets have been established in the park area as part of the arrangement for prevention, detection and control of fire.
The Capital Development Authority Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi has directed the Environment Wing of the authority to be vigilant during the “fire season” to protect the rich biodiversity and fauna and flora of the park.
Some 16 village committees have been constituted in the MargallaHills vicinity for detection and prevention of forest fires.
Recently, CDA held a meeting to review the arrangements for controling the fire. The chairman asked member of environment Mian Waheedud Din to pay regular visits to the park area and ensure strict monitoring of the vegetation there, especially those areas which are extremely vulnerable and highly prone to forest fire during summer season.
Though ‘special arrangements’ are made every year to prevent fire incidents, but the data compiled by the directorate of the authority puts a question mark on efficacy of these measures. Around 2,040 acres of forest area has been burnt in 309 fire incidents during past the 10 years.
From 2001 to 2005, wild fires hit Margalla Hills 220 times and burnt an area of 1,442 acres, causing damage to 34 pine trees, grass and bushes. During years, 2006-10, about 590.25 acres were burnt in 80 fire incidents, in which 20 dead pine trees were burnt along with bushes and grass. In the last 10 years, 2002 witnessed 62 fire incidents in which a record 548 acres of jungle was burnt.
An official said that the dubious data gave rise to some conjectures. After 2,040.25 acres of forest area and green area was lost to flames, only 54 dead pine trees were burnt in the incidents in the last 10 years. The civic agency’s own record strengthens the doubts that the timber mafia after chopping precious trees might have set the forest on fire to remove all possible traces of their crime.
After every such incident, the high-ups of the agency hold visitors and villages responsible for the act. An official of CDA Environment Directorate, speaking on condition of anonymity, called for a comprehensive investigation into the fire incidents to ‘find the real culprits’.
The member, Environment, claimed that this year the Environment Directorate in collaboration with the allied organisations and NGOs has taken concrete measures for minimising the fire incidents.
He said that under the Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) for the fire season, 225km fire-line and 196km trail-path have been cleared. Around 10 vehicles and three water tankers have been deployed for patrolling to prevent and control the forest fires.
He said that an agreement with the 6th Army Aviation Squadron of Emergency Relief Cell was also being reviewed and updated for support in case of a big fire.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.