ISLAMABAD – The Ministry of Climate Change is considering imposing an entry fee for people visiting Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) for the protection of environment and generation of resources, The Nation learnt on Saturday.
Ministry of Climate Change Spokesperson Muhammad Saleem told The Nation to protect the environment and stop the degradation of MHNP, the ministry has imposed fine for people entering restricted areas ranging from Rs500 to Rs1000.
He also said that monitoring and patrolling has been also increased by the staff to trace the individuals allegedly trying to flame the Margalla Hills.
Spokesperson also said that the ministry is also considering imposing an entry fee for visitors coming to MHNP on any means for the protection of the MHNP.
Muhammad Saleem added that the ministry firmly believes on community-based forest management and it will involve local villagers for the protection of hills and provide them financial support as well.
Member Islamabad Wildlife Board Management (IWBM) Vaqar Zakriya informed The Nation that the newly proposed Nature Conservation Act for the MHNP has supported the entry fee and engaging of local villagers in the management of wildlife parks.
However, Vaqar Zakriya said that the entry fee has been proposed for only those visitors entering the MHNP on vehicles, while pedestrians, hikers and bicycle riders will be exempted from the fee.
He said that people visiting posh restaurants and using parking areas of trails will be charged and the income generated will be spent on the protection of the MHNPs.
“If an individual can afford two million worth vehicles, he can also pay a nominal entry and parking fee and it is a worldwide practice” he said. Vaqar Zakriya also added that village councils of the localities near Margalla Hills will be engaged for the management of the hills to avoid the incidents of flaming of hills and forests.
“Both these steps included in the act, if approved, will be helpful in the protection of MHNP,” said Zakriya.
He said that the majority of the fire incidents at MHNP relate to the local population who do it in protest when they are ignored in providing jobs.
He said that IWMB has staff strength of 20 people while Capital Development Authority (CDA) has 400 but still incidents like fire on hills take place every year.
He added that no one has been arrested after such incidents which severely damages MHNP.
“Cooperation between CDA and IWMB can prevent such incidents,” he said. Member IWMB Vaqar Zakriya said that approval of PC-1 awaiting cabinet’s approval which also includes increasing strength of the staff will help generate resources and protect the MHNP.
Sources at Ministry of Climate Change said that departmental rivalry between CDA and IWMB has created a window for elements involved in flaming the Margalla Hills every year.
Officials said that above 90 percent of fire incidents occurred as a protest by villagers when CDA ignored them for three months.
“Although stipend paid to daily wagers is low, local villagers take it as violation of their rights and flame the hills,” said the official.
Officials said that around 70,000 to 80,000 illegal population settlements have been done in the MHNP area while a number of posh restaurants are functioning illegally, but the civic body is not taking any action against them.
Officials said that allowing commercial activities in the MHNP area by the civic body is one of the major reasons for damaging the environment.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam in a press briefing said that the ministry is bringing an act which will address the incidents of fire on MHNP every year.