Ombudsman concerned over IMC’s failure to follow advice

Directs interior ministry to hold meeting of stakeholders on Margalla Hills’ fire readiness


Our Correspondent March 29, 2019
Directs interior ministry to hold meeting of stakeholders on Margalla Hills’ fire readiness. PHOTO: APP / FILE

ISLAMABAD: A federal ombudsman on Thursday expressed concerns over the failure of the civic authorities and disaster managers in the federal capital to implement recommendations to prevent fire incidents on the Margalla Hills.

The concerns were expressed during a meeting at the Federal Ombudsman Secretariat on Thursday.

During the meeting, it was disclosed that all the stakeholders had failed to hold a meeting since June last year.

A representative of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) said that they had dispatched numerous letters to the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) to little avail. IMC, the local government of the federal capital, is in charge of the fire department of the federal capital.

Similarly, a representative of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said that they have scheduled a national-level meeting in this regard for early next month.

Reviewing the ombudsman’s recommendations that the IMC equip its pickets in the Margalla Hills with modern equipment while following the latest guidelines on controlling the fire on the hill and to staff them with sufficient manpower to prevent bush fires from getting out of control, it was discovered that no equipment had been placed at these pickets.

Moreover, the process of deputing staff at these pickets was still in pipeline.

At this, the Federal Ombudsman Secretariat expressed great displeasure over the IMC’s poor performance.

The IMC, however, was not completely listless, having followed through on the ombudsman’s the recommendations of launching an awareness campaign to sensitize villages in and around the Margalla Hills to control fire incidents, Moreover, regular meetings had been held with the local police, village elders and mosque prayer leaders to sensitise local inhabitants about the hazards of wildfires, how to prevent them and to stay safe during one.

It was further recommended that NDMA should provide emergency support, such as the provision of helicopters in the event of large fires. At this, the NDMA representatives said that they were fully prepared to provide any support to put out wildfires at Margalla Hills.

The ombudsman recommended that interior ministry representatives hold meetings with the IMC, the Capital Development Authority (CDA), IWMB and the NDMA in the first week of April to coordinate all activities relating to the prevention of fire incidents in the Margalla Hills National Park.

It was also decided that the federal ombudsman will hold a meeting in the third week of April to examine implementation progress on the recommendations.

It was further suggested that the interior ministry secretary, CDA chairman, IMC mayor and the IWMB chairman attend this meeting.

Last year, a massive wildfire broke out on the Margalla Hills. With the fire tenders unable to combat it, the air force was asked to send in helicopters to douse the flames by emptying large buckets of water on the wildfire.

It prompted the top court to take notice of the incident. In pursuance of orders from the Supreme Court from June 25, 2018, the federal ombudsman held a series of meetings with the CDA, NDMA, IMC, IWMB and the interior ministry and made a host of recommendations to prevent wildfires on the Margalla Hills.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2019.

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