By Ali Imran
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman took strong notice of the news on social media about people setting or using and implicitly endorsing, even glamourizing bushfires as vanity backdrops for fashion photo shoots in what was claimed to be the Margallah Hills.
After chairing a meeting of local officials of Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the Capiital Development Authority (CDA) at the Ministry who ascertained from local authorities that the two fires were set off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and certainly not in the Margallah Hills Park area as reported by some media outlets, she still ordered the setting up of a control room jointly run by IWMB and the CDA for heightened vigilance of the Margallah Hill National Park area for the entire fire season which usually lasts from April to June. Further details reveal that the incident involving a model took place off the Hazara Motorway, while the other incident involving a man setting fire to the forest with lighters took place in Khyber Pukthunkwa, around Abbottabad.
The man has been identified, while Chief Conservator of Forests Hazara Zone is investigating this further.
Sherry Rehman said that it was a dangerous emerging trend on Tik Tok which has to be condemned vehemently in order to discourage other impressionable young people who may be misled or seduced by such images into thinking such actions are socially, legally acceptable and not criminally liable.
Margallah Hills Park covers an area of 17,000 hectares approximately and is patrolled by both IWMB and CDA forest officers. Each year, fire management plans are made by both IWMB and CDA at the beginning of summer season which lasts from April to June 30th.
At this time the forest is extremely dry due to lack of rain and can catch fire easily. Every year, Section 144 is imposed against campfire, BBQs and any other kind of fire inside the protected national park in Islamabad. Just for context, the scale of action and vigilance required, it is important to take cognizance of the impacts of climate stress and the costs of inaction by all countries in a concerted reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Forest fires are a visible cost of global warming and triggered by product of extremely dry weather conditions. They strike with repeated regularity around the heated up planet.
In California, about 192 acres of forest land has been destroyed in one night alone this month. Each year, unfortunately forest fires consume millions of acres of land, destroying thousands of homes and properties around the world including United States and Europe.
This should tell us that we need to act now on global warming both nationally and internationally but let no impunity be allowed for the irresponsible audacity shown on media in the two KP incidents.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad fire incidents that normally take place between April and June inside Margalla National Hill Park have actually reduced this year as compared to 2021 season due to better coordination between CDA, IWMB and increased vigilance of fire protection staff. This year CDA has hired 400 fire staff and IWMB has a total of 60 wildlife guards patrolling MHNP 24 hours a day.
As a result, only 7 incidents of fire occurred this season to date (of which 5 were minor fires). The large fire blazing in Haripur side of Margallah Hills was prevented from spreading by joint efforts of CDA, IWMB and KPK Forest Dept. This year there has been less damage to the park and the wildlife has been safeguarded.
In order to further strengthen the coordination between CDA and IWMB, who are operating on a written fire plan prepared in March 2022, the Federal Minister of Climate Change, Senator Sherry Rehman, has directed to immediately establish a control room within the premises of IWMB’s Dino Park office located in the old Marghazar Zoo.
This should also help with the rescue of injured or trapped animals. She urged the public to help in preventing such condemnable incidents in the future.