Home News Analysis Senate Committee finally discusses Margalla Fires and Climate Change

Senate Committee finally discusses Margalla Fires and Climate Change

The Margalla hills, an iconic feature of the capital’s beauty, are engulfed in fires every year during summers. They stand barren as no proper tree plantation efforts have been made. Similarly, due to decreased rainfalls over the years, Pakistan is facing severe water shortages. It is high time the government takes action.

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News Analysis |

Senate Standing Committee for Climate Change convened on Wednesday to stress the importance of departmental obligations and issues related to climate change. In addition to that, the committee voiced their concern on regular bushfires erupting on the Margalla Hills and requested a sum of equipment from the concerned department for enacting preventive measures.

The Senate standing meeting was held under the chair of Sitara Ayaz at the Conference Hall of Parliament Lodges.

Attendees looked into the effects of climate change, the environmental ministry’s budget, problems confronted by the department, stats on global warming and other feasible countermeasures for the future. Besides, the committee also took a detailed briefing on the fire that recently ravaged the Margalla Hills.

Covering an area totaling 12,605 hectares, the Margalla Hills National Park is damaged every year in terms of habitat, fauna, and flora by fires that also worsen the air pollution over Islamabad.

Read more: Margalla Hills engulfed in fire and illegal encroachment

Deputy Director Akhtar Rasool said in regards to the fires that broke out on May 31; 80 firefighters were deployed for the operation but “strong winds created problems for us.”

Another official could not confirm if the fire was a result of human error or a deliberate act of arson committed by unidentified individuals.

Sources said that 200 Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) personnel are assigned full time duties at various parts of the National park. Despite that, incidents of fire are observed on the regular and continue to take place. A minimum of 10 fires have broken out since the start of this year, among which five were major environmental setbacks.

In a case registered at the regional Police Station Kohsar, it was cited that unidentified people fired up the dry brush according to complaints filed by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board.

Another official could not confirm if the fire was a result of human error or a deliberate act of arson committed by unidentified individuals.

The First Information Report (FIR) outlined the efforts of the board in foiling a previous attempt to create a bushfire. But it couldn’t prevent two people on a motorcycle who set fire to dry scrub in a park near the fork leading to Talhar village on Daman-e-Koh road. The report places the unidentified people in the native timber and hunter mafia.

The board also explained that firefighters deployed during the current period to combat the flames worked for the Capital Development Authority (CDA). It is not uncommon to hire local manpower for firefighting for their knowledge of hillside routes and terrain.

In the meantime, environmental activists and residents of Islamabad staged a protest outside the National Press Club last Saturday decrying the careless response time of authorities. They believe that the fires erupt naturally in dry season and are disappointed at the indifference of authorities who let it get out of control for a week before taking action.

Covering an area totaling 12,605 hectares, the Margalla Hills National Park is damaged every year in terms of habitat, fauna, and flora by fires that also worsen the air pollution over Islamabad.

Inter-Services Public Relations reported the involvement of Army Aviation and Pakistan Air Force helicopters who undertook around forty sorties flying in water dumps over affected areas. Although ISPR claimed that 90 percent of the fire was extinguished, it wasn’t only until Tuesday’s heavy deluge, that people were sure it was over

Is Pakistan deliberately trying to stay oblivious to climate change?

While briefing the committee, the Standing committee Secretary and additional secretary pointed out that Pakistan is listed in the top 10 countries living under the shadow of climate change. It was also announced that the ministry overlooking climate change will be devolved into the provincial governments after 18 amendments and will be titled the National Disaster Management ministry.

Read more: No Water? You must be talking of Karachi; No its Islamabad…

The meeting also tallied the department’s budget and workforce at a total of 192 employees, including 54 grade-17 officers and an annual budget for 2017-2018 at Rs162 million. At its current budget of Rs175 million the committee reiterated the department’s responsibilities including environmental protection, pollution control, protection of natural habitats and wildlife.

Besides domestic obligations the department would also be signing accords with other countries on climate issues, ensuring their implementation and monitoring progress. The department would be divided into sub-departments; Pakistan Environmental Protection, Zoological Survey of Pakistan, and Global Change Impact Studies Centre.

Millions allotted for environment, but where and how is it utilized?

Currently the department observes 14 accords with states across the world. The meeting was further informed that as many as Rs802 million has been allocated for Public Sector Development Program (PDSP) projects in 2018 to 2019. The standing committee also outlined a summary of the Climate Change Authority Act 2017 which has been dispatched but has yet to be approved.

The department has been allotted Rs4.7 billion worth of projects under the Green Pakistan program. Quotas of 100 million saplings to be planted in four years have been set, with over 50 million saplings already planted so far.

The meeting also brought to light the allocation of a $37 million fund under the Green Pakistan banner for the construction of 250 small dams, lakes, and spillways. Furthermore, the success of the Conference on Climate Change 2017 held in Pakistan where 600 representatives from over 200 countries attended was lauded.


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