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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Negligence and Mischief Reason for Margalla Hill Fires

Recent forest fires in Islamabad’s Margalla Hills have been attributed to human negligence and mischief, prompting increased firefighting efforts and preventive measures.

Recent forest fires in Islamabad’s Margalla Hills were attributed to “negligence and mischief,” according to government officials. The fires, which erupted in various parts of the picturesque mountain range, required hours of firefighting efforts. Irfan Niazi, Director-General of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), clarified, “There are no species in Islamabad’s forests that can catch fire by themselves. This is either the result of someone’s negligence or mischief.”

Niazi explained that the essential elements for a forest fire include high temperatures, high-speed winds, and fuel, which is abundant in Margalla Hills in the form of dry leaves and fallen tree trunks. “As soon as the temperature rises, the wind turns warm and rises upwards,” he noted, adding that the resulting high-speed winds create conditions conducive to forest fires.

Firefighting Challenges and Response

Niazi detailed the challenges faced by firefighting teams, particularly the difficulty in transporting heavy machinery to mountainous terrains. “We transport firefighters in vehicles, but then they have to walk miles to reach the fire site,” he said. The teams rely on conventional techniques such as beating bushes and cutting them to control the fires.

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In response to the increasing frequency of fires, the CDA has ramped up its firefighting workforce. While previously hiring 300-350 additional personnel for the summer months, this number has been increased to 450 to better contain the fires. Despite these efforts, the difficult terrain and limited accessibility of fire sites continue to pose significant challenges.

Impact of Extreme Weather

The Margalla range, part of the Himalayan foothills, frequently experiences bushfires during the summer months. This year, the fires have been exacerbated by a severe heat wave gripping various parts of the country.

Temperatures in some areas of Pakistan have soared as high as 52.2 degrees Celsius, contributing to the higher incidence of fires. This trend is in line with broader patterns of climate change, which have led to hotter summers across South Asia.

Preventative Measures and Future Steps

The CDA prioritizes dousing flames near residential areas to protect lives and property. No loss of life or significant property damage has been reported so far. However, the fires have highlighted the need for better prevention and response mechanisms.

Niazi emphasized that the natural environment of Margalla Hills does not inherently support spontaneous combustion, underscoring the role of human actions in triggering these fires. “The cold wind that comes along to take its place results in high-speed winds. Now all these things are conducive for a forest fire. Then when anyone engages in mischief, it causes the fire to rise and spread,” he explained.

As a preventative measure, the CDA is considering the implementation of additional safety protocols and increasing surveillance to deter deliberate fire-setting. The authorities are also exploring more efficient firefighting techniques and equipment that can be used in challenging terrains.

Climate Change Impacts

The high temperatures recorded in Pakistan are part of a worrying trend linked to human-induced climate change. The hotter and drier conditions create an environment where forest fires can ignite and spread rapidly. This summer’s heat wave has been particularly intense, contributing to multiple fire incidents in the Margalla Hills.

These fires not only threaten the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Margalla Hills but also pose a significant risk to nearby communities. The increased frequency and severity of such incidents call for a reassessment of current strategies to manage and mitigate the risks associated with forest fires. The CDA’s proactive steps, such as increasing manpower and enhancing firefighting techniques, are crucial in addressing these challenges.

By understanding the root causes and implementing effective prevention and response measures, Islamabad can better protect its natural heritage and ensure the safety of its residents.