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CDA and wildlife board at odds over Islamabad hiking trail

CDA and wildlife board at odds over Islamabad hiking trail

ISLAMABAD: After opening Trail 7, the newly-appointed head of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is now in the middle of a controversy because the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) says that the trail belongs to the board and that the CDA head didn’t have the right to open it.

On Wednesday morning, CDA Chairman retired Capt. Mohammad Usman Younis opened the trail, which goes from sector C-12 to Kanthla village. It was his first day on the job.

But it seems that CDA officials did not tell him what was going on with Margalla Hills. A sign at the trail says that it was built by the CDA’s environment branch.

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But sources say that IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan wrote a letter to the chairman saying, “It seems that your good self was not told about the legal status of Margalla Hills National Park and trail no. 7.” Unfortunately, the inauguration is likely to have legal repercussions, and anyone who was there can be charged with contempt of court.

IWMB isn’t sure why the CDA chairman is opening the site.

The letter also says that the trail is inside the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) and that the IWMB is in charge of the MHNP because of the Islamabad Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation, and Management) Ordinance of 1979 and the rulings of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

It also said that the IHC’s ruling in a case called “Prof. Zahid Baig Mirga vs. CDA” says, among other things, that the federal government made the Margalla Hills part of the national park by issuing a notice on April 28, 1980, using the power it had under Section 21 of the Wildlife Ordinance of 1979.

The letter said that under the Wildlife Ordinance of 1979, only the board has the power to allow such activities (hiking trails).

Dawn was told by Ms. Saeed that the board’s spokesperson would give more information about this.

Later, the spokesperson, Umar Bilal, talked to Dawn and confirmed that the letter had been written by the IWMB chairperson. He also said that both IWMB and CDA officials had built the trail, but that the CDA had opened it early on Wednesday morning without telling the board or keeping them in the loop.

He said that the law says that IWMB is responsible for taking care of Margalla Hills National Park. So, we wrote a letter to CDA to let them know how we felt,” he said.

When asked, a CDA officer said that the government organisation had not broken any rules while building Trail 7. The officer also said that the CDA’s legal department was working on a proper response to the IWMB letter.

When asked for official comments, Syed Asif Raza, who works for the CDA’s Environment Wing, said that this facility was built in line with Section 21 of the Wildlife Act of 1979.

“The facility is used by a large part of the public, especially families, and the public as a whole likes it. He said, “These trails actually meet the main goals of education and recreation that the Act of 1979 was made for.”

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