The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department and the Galiyat Development Authority (GDA) have locked horns over a piece of land, where the latter has leased out over 100-kanal of land to a private firm to install a chairlift and construct high-rise buildings.
The wildlife department has asked the GDA to annul the agreement it has clinched with MS Monal Group private limited to install a chairlift in Ayubia stating that the development authority has allotted 60-kanal land of Ayubia National Park to the firm.
“The leasee company has started bifurcation of the allotted land owned by this department which is not only violation of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife and Biodiversity Act 2015 but also a violation of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa Forest Ordinance 2002,” a K-P wildlife letter said.
In a letter addressed to the GDA director-general, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Wildlife Division Abbottabad stated that a sub-divisional forest officer deployed at the Ayubia National Park has reported that GDA has leased out an area of 110-kanal of land to MS Monal group for 40 years. Of the allotted land, over 60-kanal of land falls under the jurisdiction of Ayubia National Park and the lease is highly undesirable and against the rules of business.
The DFO further said that the national park is an area that aims to protect and preserve flora, fauna and biological diversity in the natural state.
“The bifurcation of the core zone of the national park will cause fragmentation of habitat of indigenous fauna resulting species habitat shrinkages which may lead to human-wildlife conflict in Galiyat, since the park support 33 mammals, 200-plus birds and reptiles,” the DFO said.
He further said that high-rise buildings, as proposed in the master plan, will not only impair the very objectives of the national park but also cause negative environmental impacts. “EIA of the subject construction is a prerequisite to be made prior to interventions which is also mandatory under national and international laws,” the forest official said asking the GDA to direct the company not to start any work on the said land through any means, otherwise, the wildlife department will be compelled to proceed against the company under prevailing laws.
Ayubia National Park Sub Divisional Wildlife Officer Sardar Nawaz that the staff of Ayubia National Park had barred workers of Monal Group from any construction in the area after they found that 60-kanal of the national parkland had been allotted to the company.
He said that the GDA has no authority to lease out the national park’s land under international laws, which protect national parks. Answering a question, he said that the GDA has not replied to their letter. The official further said that no environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project has been carried out and without it and public hearing, no work can be done.
GDA Director-General Raza Habib said that they have been installing the chairlift on the 106-kanal of land where old the chairlift existed since 1963.
“This whole land belongs to the GDA and we have all the documentary proofs,” claimed the GDA director-general.
He said the bidding of the chairlift project had been awarded transparently. He said that GDA will clarify its position on the K-P wildlife reservation after the opening of its office, which has been closed for a few days after eight officials contacted the Covid-19 virus. GDA spokesperson Ahsan Hameed claimed they were constructing the chairlift on the same 106-kanal of land where GDA was already running the chairlift for a long time. Ahsan said the project will be completed under a public-private partnership as the GDA will provide the land while the company will invest rs1.5 billion on the project.
Interestingly, the GDA does not have the EIA of the mega project, but the spokesperson claimed that they have already completed a 100-page EIA report, which will be made public as soon as the GDA office opened.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2021.
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