Margalla Hills National Park: Fire set by locals to clear land for livestock, says official

Margalla Hills National Park: Fire set by locals to clear land for livestock, says official

19 January 2009

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Pakistan — According to the initial findings, the recent fire on Margalla Hills was set by locals to clear some land for their livestock, Ministry of Environment’s Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Forest Abdul Munaf Qaimkhani told Daily Times on Saturday.

He said mostly fire incidents occur during summer when bushes catch fire due to heat, but fire incident in winter was unusual.

He said according to the initial findings it seemed that the fire was set by local community to clear some land for vegetation that could be used for cattle grazing. He said the incident also indicated lack of coordination between Capital Development Authority (CDA) and locals.

Had the locals requested CDA in this regard, it could have provided them some land for the cattle grazing, said Qaimkhani. He said it was learnt that locals set the fire to take advantage of rains, as ash fertilises land to flourish vegetation that is ideal for grazing purposes.

Qaimkhani said fire not only destroyed flora and fauna but also resulted into soil erosion. He also pointed out that the fire was fatal for game birds, as they could migrate to other areas.

He said the natural forests in the country were diminishing. The farmlands or private forests are compensating this loss, he added. He said the forest cover of the country was 5.01 percent according to 2004-05 survey and the government was trying to increase it to 6.0 percent under the millennium development goals.

He said the government had released 15 percent amount of the total Rs13 billion funds allocated for the tree plantation during 2008-09. He admitted that survival rate of the planted trees per year was very low against the claims of provincial governments. “Though the provinces report tree plantation up to 80 percent of the total set target, on ground the actual percentage is very low,” he said.

He said Federal Minister for Environment Hameedulalh Jan Afridi had directed the officials concerned to develop some mechanism for monitoring of tree plantation campaigns. He said in this regard a meeting was scheduled for tomorrow (Monday) to finalise the details.

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