Pakistan: Islamabad bans activities that may endanger Margalla Hills environment, habitat

British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner with two bags full of trash in Margalla Hills National Park. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration has banned smoking, barbecues, setting garbage on fire or carrying flammable items such as matchsticks, lighters, charcoal and bottles of petrol or kerosene oil, prohibiting any activity or action that could cause forest fire in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP).

According to the district government’s notification, violators may face jail term up to a month or fine under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898.

A tweet that made the difference

The District Magistrate’s order comes after the United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner’s tweet on May 7 in which he posted his picture with the caption: Another Friday morning walk, another two bags of litter.

In the picture the British envoy could be seen carrying two bags of trash removed from the Margalla Hills.

The picture went viral on social media stirring up a campaign among the civil society and diplomatic community. The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the ICT teams also organized drive for cleanliness of MHNP, its walking tracks, hiking trails and paths.

Zero tolerance for trash

Talking to Gulf News, Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat said the ICT had issued a notification in April banning all kind of environmentally hazardous practices, but it was being effectively implemented from the current week.

We have decided ‘zero tolerance’ policy for those who litter the picturesque hills causing damage to the environment as well as the natural habitat of the hills, he said.

According to a fresh notification, the capital police will now assist the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) in enforcing the environmental laws.

The district administration and police will be monitoring the MHNP and its various trails and tracks in collaboration with the teams of the IWMB.

3rd largest national park in the world

The MHNP is the third largest national park in the world with an area of 17,386 hectares (42,960 acres) or 173.9

While commending the ICT administration’s swift response to his tweet, Dr Christian Turner thanked the DC for taking prompt action.

The British head of the mission said he was humbled by many posts in response to his tweet and lauded the ICT administration for issuing the notification that prohibits all kind of hazardous practices inside the MHNP.

Along with the UK mission, Canada, France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, Indonesia, Austria and other missions in Islamabad have volunteered to clean up the hills.

High Commissioner of Canada Wendy Gilmour in a tweet on Friday also participated in the cleanliness drive and posted pictures in which she could be seen along with her Dutch colleague Wouter Plomp and other diplomats with bags of trash removed from the picturesque hills.

Wendy termed the Margalla Hills “a precious resource for Islamabad.”

I am happy to volunteer in the Margalla Hills with diplomatic colleagues for the Islamabad Wildlife Board, said Wendy Gilmour.

My waste, my responsibility

Meanwhile, the IWMB campaign “My Waste, My Responsibility” is in full swing as diplomats, celebrities, volunteers and civil society are taking part in the cleanliness drive during the May 8-16 lockdown days.

The campaign will continue until May 16, said Manager Operation of the IWMB, Sakhawat Ali, adding the Board will not only clean all the main trails, but will also go inside to remove garbage from the comparatively less trodden paths.

Rina S. Khan, Chairperson of the IWMB, in a tweet said the volunteers were playing their role to implement the campaign in MNHP.