The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) have yet to completely douse the fire in Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).
The CDA spokesperson confirmed in a statement that 90 per cent of the three fires that broke out in Margalla park have been brought under control. He said the fires in Saidpur and Pir Sohawa had been completely contained, while the one in Talhar Village, 90 per cent of the fire was under control.
Narrating details of areas affected due to fire, he said the fire at Pir Sohawa broke out on 25 acres, 12 acres caught fire at Saidpur and 15 acres at Talhar village caught fire.
The CDA official said around 200 CDA firefighters, six water bowsers and various vehicles took part in the operation. The unruly fire is expected to cause severe damage to the green cover as well as wild inhabitants. In this regard, IWMB Chairperson Reena Khan said that rigorous efforts were under way to extinguish the fire in Trial-3, Bari Imam side, D-12, and trail-6 in MHNP.
She added that CDA and IWMB’s teams were taking part in the firefighting. Khan disclosed that incidents of sporadic bursting of flames at different spots in the national park have been reported too.
The official added that some firefighters had sustained injuries as well during the extinguishing operation and claimed that the situation was almost under control.
The IWMB chairperson admitted that the incident has revealed the shortage of staff and a dearth of facilities required to cope with fire incidents.
She added that the board merely had 30 guards and 20 additional were recruited from April until June 30.
IWMB official said that the fire eruption in MHNP wasn’t usually natural but it was due to locals and tourists who lit cigarettes or organise barbeque parties there.
Khan asserted that the fire did not erupt naturally but it seemed like it was deliberately done. She claimed that the IWMB staff had witnesased a man ignite trees on Rrail-6 while its investigation was under way.
She added that the board was ensuring in its investigation that no local was involved in the incident and vowed that strict action would be taken against the perpetrators if any.
The official said that the blaze had caused serious damage to several trees and wildlife in MHNP, adding that IWMB staff was patrolling round the clock in the area too.
She urged locals to immediately report any suspicious activity to the police as they need to be completely prepared for the protection of the national park.
The fires erupt every year around April in Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) mostly because of the irresponsible attitude of tourists and visitors besides of fire in the national park, a senior IWMB official said.
He said the fire reported at Trail-3 top broke out in the morning which was extinguished late on Friday night whereas the fire at Talhar top of Trail-6 was massive and took more time to extinguish.
The fires, he said, were detrimental for wildlife species especially birdlife that was in a breeding season where raptors and birds of prey (kites, eagles, hawks etc) hover over such fire locations to hunt small birds, reptiles and insect species fleeing the blaze.
The IWMB official added the fire incidents in the park were mostly due to anthropogenic activities rather than natural phenomenon. “It will be too early to call the fire because of human error as a proper investigation by IWMB staff is in the process to ascertain facts,” he added. Giving details of the fire-fighting operation, he said of the three fires at Saidpur, Pir Sohawa and Talhar sites; the first two had been completely controlled whereas the one at Talhar was 90 per cent contained.
“Though there is no more fire blazing at Talhar point some smoke is still rising from the site due to massive grasslands being burnt,” the IWMB official confirmed. He underscored the IWMB staff was trying to determine the root cause and would devise a strong mechanism to end the crisis permanently. “We cannot let our forests, green cover and biodiversity burn every time,” he added.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2021.